Suns, Mavericks, Cavaliers, Rockets met with LeBron’s agent; LeBron ‘seems ready’ to explore the market

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The Suns are doing what they can to enter the LeBron James sweepstakes, even if it’s only a theoretical competition at this stage of the proceedings.

Most believe that James isn’t going anywhere, and that he, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are working together to structure their contracts so that they can stay in Miami, while creating some additional cap space to allow the team to add talent in free agency at the same time.

But LeBron hasn’t said a thing since opting out of the final two years of his deal, and while he’s sitting out this initial round of meetings — again, possibly because he has no intentions of leaving — his agent will be exploring options with at least a few teams on his behalf.

The Suns are one of them, and the team’s owner reportedly had his shot with James’ agent on Wednesday.

From Chris Broussard of ESPN.com:

Sources: Suns owner Robert Sarver was n Cleveland yesterday & met with LeBron’s agent, Rich Paul. Teaming LJ/Melo or LJ/Bosh n Phx discussed

The Cavaliers, Mavericks and Rockets also reportedly met with LeBron’s agent this week. The most interesting news of all may not happen until next week, however, when James himself may be present for meetings with three finalists, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

The Suns are the most intriguing here, mainly because the players currently in place are talented enough and young enough to keep contending for years to come. And, the team’s GM has demonstrated an above average ability to play this game correctly, by assembling draft picks and creating cap space while also putting a product on the floor that won 48 games last season in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.

Teaming James with another star like Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh, while keeping Goran Dragic and re-signing Eric Bledsoe would obviously make the Suns into an instant championship threat. It still feels like an extreme long shot, but if nothing else, Phoenix can take some solace in knowing it was on a very short list of teams James would potentially consider if, for some reason, he seriously would consider leaving Miami to try to contend somewhere else.

One more thing to add here, and that’s the fact that the little wrinkle of LeBron potentially attending free agent pitch meetings would, in theory, seem to complicate things. Miami needs to add talent to upgrade the roster, but the market we’ve seen so far isn’t one where bargains are there to be had — guys are being overpaid more than anything else, and if that trend continues, the Heat will end up missing out.

It was never perceived as a serious threat that LeBron would leave Miami. But based on the information we have at this stage of things, it at least seems possible — and that in and of itself is going to make for a frenzied finish to free agency.

Knicks’ Joakim Noah has expected shoulder surgery to repair rotator cuff

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NEW YORK (AP) — Knicks center Joakim Noah has had right shoulder surgery to repair his rotator cuff, a procedure that could sideline him until training camp.

The Knicks say Noah had the surgery Wednesday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, performed by Dr. David Altchek.

The team didn’t give a timetable for Noah’s recovery, but coach Jeff Hornacek said late in the season that if Noah had the operation, the recovery time could be five months.

Noah had an injury-plagued season that ended early when he was suspended 20 games by the NBA for violating the league’s anti-drug policy. There are still 12 games remaining on the penalty that he will have to serve next season when healthy.

Noah had surgery on his other shoulder last season, limiting him to 29 games in his final season in Chicago before signing a four-year, $72 million deal with New York.

PBT Extra: Pacers offseason moves starts with Paul George question

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Larry Bird, when not delivering All-Star Game bids, should be spending his time lighting candles and praying in churches all over Indianapolis that Paul George makes an All-NBA team.

If PG13 makes the cut, Bird’s job this summer becomes more clear: Offer George the designated player max extension, get him to sign the deal, then get back to building a contender around him.

If George doesn’t make the cut, things get much tougher for Bird. I discuss all of it in this new PBT Extra.

Fans to vote on “Best Dunk,” “Best Assist,” other categories handed out at NBA Awards show

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Fans are going to get their say at the NBA Awards Show, coming June 26 on TNT. Drake will be the host, and we to come up with an under/over on the number of players Drake gives a bro hug to during the ceremony.

That’s the night the NBA will hand out its Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, and every other major postseason award — except for All-NBA Team, which has to come earlier. The media have already cast their votes for these awards.

Where the fans get to come in is the fun awards, categories created just for this event:

• Dunk of the Year
• Best Style
• Block of the Year
• Assist of the Year
• Game Winner of the Year
• Top Performance of the Year

The NBA already narrowed down the list of choices for each category to three, and voting opens tonight. Just go to  www.nba.com/nbaawards and cast your ballot, or on Twitter or Facebook just post the #AwardName and First/Last Name of their winner (for example, #DunkOfTheYear  Larry Nance).

These awards should add some energy — and good highlights — to what has the potential to be a stuffy event. It’s a bunch of NBA players in suits in a ballroom in New York, this is going to feel like a branding event at times. The NBA is hoping the fans can liven it up.

Here are the categories, with the hashtags for voting:

#DunkOfTheYear
• Los Angeles Lakers’ Larry Nance, Jr. vs. Brooklyn

• Minnesota’s Zach LaVine vs. Phoenix

• Oklahoma City’s Victor Oladipo vs. Atlanta

#BestStyle
• Cleveland’s Iman Shumpert
• Chicago’s Dwyane Wade
• Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook

#BlockOfTheYear
• San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard vs. Houston
• New York’s Kristaps Porzingis vs. Brooklyn
• Miami’s Hassan Whiteside vs. Toronto

#GameWinnerOfTheYear
• Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving vs. Golden State
• Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook vs. Denver
• Phoenix’s Tyler Ulis vs. Boston

#TopPerformanceOfTheYear
• Phoenix’s Devin Booker 70-point game vs. Boston
• Houston’s James Harden nets 53-16-17 triple double vs. New York
• Golden State’s Klay Thompson scores 60 in three quarters vs. Indiana
• Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook with most points in a triple-double, 57-13-11, vs. Orlando

#AssistOfTheYear
• Golden State’s Draymond Green to Stephen Curry to Kevin Durant
• Denver’s Nikola Jokic with no-look pass
• LA Clippers’ Chris Paul with wraparound pass

Report: USC’s Elijah Stewart intended to declare for NBA draft, forgot

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Declaring for the NBA draft is like declaring bankruptcy: You can’t just bellow it and expect it to take effect. You actually have to fill out the paperwork.

That’s why USC’s Elijah Stewart wasn’t among the 192 early entrants to the 2017 NBA draft.

Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress:

Stewart:

Givony’s report will do little but embarrass Stewart. It’s unlikely Stewart would’ve been drafted, and he likely would have withdrawn to return to USC for his senior season. Perhaps, he would’ve gotten helpful feedback from the NBA before that point, but that’s minimal.

The real problem, though, isn’t Stewart’s inattentiveness, to whatever extent is exists. It’s that the NCAA won’t allow players to maintain eligibility while having an agent.

If Stewart had proper representation, there’d be no questioning whether he intended to declare for the draft. His agent would’ve handled it, one way or the other.

If the NCAA were truly about educating players, it’d allow them to have guidance from experienced professional agents. Agents don’t have to conflict with amateurism (not that amateurism is a worthy goal, anyway).

But teaching players is not the NCAA’s true goal. The NCAA prioritizes keeping its cartel in tact and money flowing to coaches and administrators.

Agents might steer players from that corrupt system entirely or at least help them leverage their immense power to gain better compensation than a wage-fixed scholarship.

This incident should spark discussion about the unseemly lengths the NCAA goes to to protect its money-makers from its revenue-generators. Instead, it’s much easier to make Stewart a punchline.