Report: LeBron James has left Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh in the dark about his future with Heat

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LeBron James sacrificed nothing by opting out.

That’s not necessarily the case for Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

If he wants, LeBron could re-sign for two years with a player option at the exact same salary he was set to earn in his previous contract. Or he could give himself a slight raise. Or he could sign a five-year max contract. Or he could sign a shorter max contract. Or he could accept less to give the Heat more flexibility.

Whatever LeBron wants to do, the Heat will bend over backward. If they don’t, other teams will line up to do so.

That might even be the case for Bosh, too, though I’m not absolutely, totally, 100 percent certain Bosh can get a full max deal. With his health, Wade almost certainly can’t. Maybe they’ll get long-term security in exchange for taking lower salaries, but that’s still sacrificing something.

There are a lot of moving parts to accommodating all three, but they went through this in 2010. I figured they could get on the same page again this summer. After all, they met last week to discuss their contract status.

But that meeting didn’t resolve much.

Chris Broussard of ESPN:

The only certainty coming out of the meeting concerning James was that he wanted a maximum-level salary.

James did not ask or suggest that Wade and Bosh opt out of their deals or take lesser salaries to allow the Heat to add other top players, according to the sources.

Bosh and Wade are intent on returning to Miami, but neither of them knows what James will do.

Bosh and Wade were so uncertain about James’s future after last week’s meeting that one of them spoke about what the Heat might look like without James, according to one source.

The decisions of Bosh and Wade to opt out of the final two years and $42 million of their contracts were sparked by their desire to add better players in an effort to entice James to stay in Miami, one source said.

Bosh is looking to sign a five-year deal worth between $80 million and $90 million while Wade is thinking along the lines of $55 million-60 million over four years, sources said.

If Wade and Bosh accepted salaries on the lowest end of those ranges and fully backload their deals and LeBron gets the max, the Heat would fall $9,646,014 below the projected salary cap.

That’s lower than a previous report indicated, but it’s much more than the non-taxpayer mid-level exception ($5,305,00) Miami could have offered had Bosh and Wade opted in or demanded larger salaries.

On a four-year contract, a free agent could make $41,188,480 with that projected cap room – $18,536,130 more than he could with the full MLE. That’s a significant difference, one large enough to keep the Heat in play for players like Kyle Lowry, Pau Gasol and Luol Deng.

But it would require convincing Wade and Bosh to accept the low end of their desired salary ranges and fully backload their deals. That’s not an automatic sell, though those two seem committed to the cause.

I’m pretty surprised LeBron is leaving this burden on them. LeBron reportedly wants the max, and without question, he deserves it.

Bosh and Wade – especially the former – were in line for higher salaries, though. If LeBron wants the max, he must realize that cuts into the Heat’s flexibility to assemble a quality supporting cast around him. He can’t have his cake and eat it too.

Maybe Wade comes out ahead in this deal. He was due $41,819,000 over the next two years, and there’s no guarantee he would have earned $13,181,000 in 2016-17 and 2017-18 had he played out his recently terminated contract and then sought a new deal. I’d been estimating Wade could draw $8 million per year in those seasons for $16 million total, but it’s obviously difficult to prognosticate three and four years ahead. If Wade is sacrificing salary – and I think he is a little – it’s not a huge amount.

But Bosh – whose max contract would pay $118,792,889 over five years – almost certainly comes out behind. Even if he couldn’t draw the full max – which would be $88,216,633 over four years if he left Miami – he could do better than this.

However, Wade and Bosh are adults. If they want to accept less money to placate LeBron, they can. LeBron isn’t forcing them to do anything.

He’s just putting them in a surprisingly tough spot.

Joe Johnson dominates late, Jazz beat Clippers 105-98 to even series 2-2

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Rudy Gobert was back at center, giving the Jazz an emotional boost and someone who can match up with DeAndre Jordan (although Gobert wasn’t moving like his normal self).

Gordon Hayward had to leave the game with food poisoning.

It didn’t matter, the Jazz had Joe Johnson. The veteran forward who knows how to get buckets scored or assisted on 20 straight points for Utah in the fourth, sparking a run that got the Jazz a 105-98 come-from-behind win.

The series is now tied 2-2, heading back to Los Angeles for Game 5 Tuesday.

When people talk about Johnson, the first thing that seems to come up is the oversized contract Atlanta gave him, but they forget this is a seven-time All-Star. He was nicknamed “iso-joe” because of how Mike Woodson’s offense used him heavily in isolation for the Hawks, but that was playing to the strength of his skill set. He can get buckets. Just ask the Clippers, as Johnson finished with 28.

The return of Gobert, a quietly strong game from Derrick Favors, plus maybe something else (like the heavy load last game) seemed to wear on DeAndre Jordan, who was not as sharp as normal in this one. The Clippers again leaned on Chris Paul — 27 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds — and Jamal Crawford who had 25 points off the bench. However, take those two out of the equation and the rest of the Clippers shot just 34.2 percent against that elite Jazz defense. In the fourth quarter, the entire Clippers’ team shot 31.4 percent total.

Utah got good performances from their role players, who stepped up with Hayward out. Rodney Hood had 18 points and some key buckets in the fourth. Then there was Joe Ingles, who defended CP3 for stretches, was a force getting where he wanted on the pick-and-roll leading to 11 assists, plus he had two key threes down the stretch.

The Clippers clearly missed Blake Griffin in some of these matchups, but Los Angeles is going to have to adjust to that in this series because he’s not returning.

This series is even and feels like it may well go seven. The Clippers have two out of the remaining three at home, and they have the best player in the series in Chris Paul. All that may not be enough if the Jazz role players keep stepping up.

Watch Paul George lose JR Smith, put Cavaliers guard on skates with crossover

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Game 4 between the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers was hotly-contested in the first half. The Cavaliers led, 58-52, after two quarters.

But one special play came when Indiana’s Paul George put JR Smith on his heels, with the Cavaliers guard reeling back some 10 feet after a pull-back crossover left George alone at the 3-point line.

Via Twitter:

You might say George pushed off with his left hand, but you could also point out that Smith then turned a flop-like head kick into an actual blown defensive assignment.

Cleveland completed the series sweep on Indiana with the win, 106-102.

Kobe Bryant’s new Canvas video is brought to you by the letter O (for Obsession)

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Kobe Bryant’s Canvas series returned to our television screen on Saturday. The Sesame Street-like videos center around finding a place to draw motivation from in order to, as the most recent video says, dominate the will of your opponent.

They’re … weird.

They are also extremely Kobe-ish in that they stay true to the former Los Angeles Lakers great’s internal vision of how to play basketball.

The last one we saw was all about finding a musecage, and using your dark thoughts to propel you to win. This one is all about obsession, and how that emotion separates those who like to win from true competitors.

I’m personally all for these videos. They are maybe a little cheesy, or single-minded, but that’s sort of the point. It accurately reflects Kobe, which is something you don’t often see from retired players trying to transition their brand from player to former player.

Isaiah Thomas scores 33, Celtics beat Bulls 104-95 to tie series

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CHICAGO (AP) Isaiah Thomas scored 33 points, and the Boston Celtics beat the Chicago Bulls 104-95 on Sunday to tie their first-round playoff series at 2-all.

Boston blew a 20-point lead, but Thomas keyed a third-quarter run that put the Celtics back on top after Chicago briefly went ahead.

Gerald Green made four 3-pointers on his way to 18 points, helping the top-seeded Celtics return the favor in Chicago after dropping the first two games at home. Al Horford added 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Game 5 is Wednesday in Boston.

Jimmy Butler carried the Bulls with 33 points and nine assists. Nikola Mirotic and seldom-used Isaiah Canaan each scored 13 points, but Dwyane Wade finished with just 11.

Canaan made his first appearance since April 10, with Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg searching for help at point guard with Rajon Rondo missing his second straight game because of a broken right thumb.

The Celtics led by 20 in the second quarter and were still up 10 in the third when Chicago scored 12 straight. The Bulls went ahead 65-63 on Robin Lopez‘s hook shot with 4:35 left in the quarter.

Thomas answered with back-to-back layups and scored 10 points in a 12-0 run that gave the Celtics a 75-65 lead, and they withstood a push by the Bulls early in the fourth.

With Thomas and Green each scoring 16 in the first half, the Celtics carried a 57-46 lead into the break.

Butler led the Bulls with 17 in the half. But the offense struggled in a big way with Rondo unavailable. Jerian Grant started and went to the bench after about five ineffective minutes. Michael Carter-Williams then picked up two quick fouls, forcing the Bulls to go with Canaan in the first quarter.

The Celtics, meanwhile, led 41-21 early in the second quarter. But things started to turn after Canaan stole the ball from Marcus Smart and scored on a layup.

Smart feigned throwing the ball at Butler. The two came nose to nose, resulting in technical fouls for both players, and the Bulls started to shoot their way back into it.

Mirotic hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored eight in the quarter. Bobby Portis cut it to 52-42 with his basket late in the half, and Butler hit two free throws with 22.6 seconds left to make it 57-46.

RONDO FINED

The NBA fined Rondo for attempting to trip Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder from the bench in Game 3. Crowder jawed at the Bulls’ bench after hitting a jumper and Rondo extended his leg as Crowder walked by.

TIP-INS

Celtics: Thomas was just 1 of 9 on 3-pointers but made 12 of 13 free throws.

Bulls: Butler made 19 of 23 foul shots after failing to get to the line in Game 3. … Canaan was inactive for the first three games.