Next big step for LeBron James’ future: Sit down with Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade

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Here’s what I find most interesting about LeBron James opting out of his contract on June 24, before the draft and six days before his deadline?

It was unilateral.

It was not a coordinated move with the two other members of Miami’s “big three” — Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. Which is what Wade thought it would be. Rather, it was LeBron sending a message not only to Pat Riley and the Heat about upgrading the roster but to Wade and Bosh that they better join him in creating cap space or he can take his talents to Chicago or Los Angeles or wherever. They may ultimately make coordinated moves, but not yet.

The three had not yet sat down to talk but will this week, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

The meeting is expected to take place days before the official beginning of free agency, and there’s an expectation that the Heat’s “Big 3” will have a strong idea about whether they’ll continue together in Miami before James, 29, can hit the market on July 1….

Discussions between James and Heat owner Micky Arison and president Pat Riley will take place soon too, sources said.

Being around Chris Bosh for multiple interviews in and around the Finals, I get the impression he is very comfortable in Miami, both with his role on the court and his life outside it. He doesn’t want to leave, and if that means he takes a few million dollar haircut he’s good with that.

Will Wade feel that way is the bigger question. He is the guy with the key hand to play.

Four years ago he made a sacrifice to bring these three together, would he make a bigger one to keep them together? He certainly is not a player on the court worth what he is getting paid anymore, but as Pat Riley said in his exit interview he is still a core part of Miami, a talisman of the franchise.

At times in recent months Wade has also sounded like the guy who has put in the time and helped for the franchise for years and wants to be rewarded for that. Think Kobe Bryant style contract.

The question is matters to Wade: Getting rewarded and paid ($41 million over the next two years) or taking a lesser (but longer) deal and continuing to play next to LeBron and compete.

Only Wade can answer that, but in that answer is the key to the future of the Heat.

All three of them will meet with Pat Riley and the Heat by July 1 and my guess is by the time free agency starts we’ll already know if LeBron has Wade and Bosh with him and is going to give Pat Riley a real chance.

Or, if LeBron is taking his talents out of South Beach.

Either way, it’s on Wade.

Josh Jackson’s first pitch is… just a bit outside

Associated Press
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Josh Jackson is not going Bo Jackson on us and playing baseball in the offseason.

The highly-rated forward out of Kansas who was the No. 4 pick of the Phoenix Suns was invited to throw out the first pitch before Friday night’s Diamondbacks game.

To quote Bob Uecker, he was just a bit outside. He tried the corner and missed.

Lonzo Ball was able to make his first pitch, ergo, he will turn out to be a much better NBA player. Obviously, these skills correlate.

Report: Re-signing Nerlens Noel Mavericks’ top off-season priority

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This is a Mark Cuban owned team, you don’t think the Mavericks are going to make a serious run at a free agent come July 1? Pelicans’ point guard Jrue Holiday has long been known to be a target, but there will be others.

But keeping their new core together, including restricted free agent Nerlens Noel, is the top priority, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Rumors like this are out there in part from Dallas to hope to chill the market for Noel. While he could be a defensive force who provides some scoring around the rim, with Noel’s injury history they may be able to get him at less than max money — because if he’s at the max the Mavericks are flirting with the luxury tax (and Cuban isn’t going to want to pay the tax for a borderline playoff team at best).

What Dallas fears is what Brooklyn did last season to Allen Crabbe in Portland and Tyler Johnson in Miami — some team to come in with a max or near-max offer sheet that drives up the price. Dallas will match, they will keep the young core together, it just gets more expensive.

Next season in Dallas will be a deserved big farewell to Dirk Nowitzki. He will be the focus, but behind him Dallas will try to be building for the future. They made the trade deadline move to make sure Noel is a part of that, the only question now is how much it costs them.

Magic Johnson on drafting Lonzo Ball: “what I needed was a leader”

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Nobody, not even his critics with the Lakers, question that D'Angelo Russell had talent. What they questioned from the start was his work ethic and maturity. I was told by sources with the team he often was the last one to team meetings, often one of the first out of the gym, and the whole Nick Young thing spoke to the maturity question. Byron Scott took a lot of heat as Lakers’ coach for benching him, and Scott’s communication skills were lacking, but he had reasons. Russell also just 21 and maybe he finds his way, but the Lakers weren’t willing to wait anymore.

Which is why the Lakers were willing to move him to Brooklyn in the Brook Lopez trade, and why the Lakers went after Lonzo Ball in the draft, Magic Johnson said, via Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

Is Lonzo Ball a leader? Only time will tell, he has the potential.

Will players want to play with him? Yes, if the passing skills he showed in college transfer to the NBA. If guys know they will get the rock if they run/cut, then they will do just that. It’s some simple B. F. Skinner stuff here — if players are rewarded they will keep doing it. Get them the rock in transition and they will get out there every time.

Ball has flaws in his game, there are certainly questions about his defense, and how that awkward shot translates remains to be seen (it goes in but his time to get it off will decrease at the NBA level)? Will he be a scoring threat in the half-court? He’s got work to do. But answer those questions and the Lakers may have the key piece to help anchor a franchise he’s been looking for.

Sacramento Kings waive guard Arron Afflalo

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) The Sacramento Kings have waived guard Arron Afflalo one year after signing him as a free agent.

The Kings cut ties with Afflalo on Friday before his entire $12.5 million contract for 2017-18 would become guaranteed. Afflalo will get $1.5 million instead.

Afflalo averaged 8.4 points and 2 rebounds in 61 games this past season for Sacramento. He has averaged 11.3 points per game in his 10-year career.