While NBA rumors fly in wild ride, LeBron James plays patient game

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It’s only been five days. We’re just starting Day 6.

That’s how long we have been in this NBA free agency period (it feels like three weeks, but it just started July 1). Six days is too fast to expect even Pat Riley to have pulled off a miracle, or to have rebuilt key parts of the Heat’s roster. We’re not at the point yet where most players will take a discount, they are still dreaming big.

Six days is far faster than LeBron James needed to make a decision. And he knows it. So he hasn’t.

In today’s constant news cycle/social media landscape opinions — and the emotions of fan bases — swing on droplets of news. Especially where it concerns LeBron because he swings the balance of power with him — whatever team he plays for is instantly a contender. Other players will come there. He brings that kind of power.

But clearly the man is in no rush to use it. He went on vacation right as free agency started and has another one planned within a week.

Why should he be in a rush?

The message he sent to Pat Riley about improving the roster got through and is still hangs over the Heat, forcing actions. LeBron can let his agent sort through potential Plan B options, to meet with other interested teams. LeBron can even sit down this week with a handful of those other suitors.

And then still not make an instant decision.

Would LeBron like to get this wrapped up before he heads to Brazil to watch the World Cup final? I’m sure he would. That’s different from real pressure to get a deal done — what real pressure is on him to make a fast decision? Other teams may get frustrated with the waiting, so what?

Right now the pressure is on Riley, but he is caught in a vicious cycle — quality free agents don’t want to commit to the Heat until they know LeBron is on board, LeBron doesn’t want to be on board until some more quality players are.

Then there is the money issue — Riley doesn’t know exactly what he can spend. That’s thanks to LeBron, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade not giving Riley firm numbers to go by. Our own Aaron Bruski reported that contenders speaking to Isaiah Thomas were giving him a $6 million to $7 million starting number. Other free agents were told the starting salary was $5.5 million, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, although the Heat talked of trying to make a sign-and-trade deal. Luol Deng and the Heat spoke but could only go so far because there are no solid numbers, reports David Aldridge of NBA.com.

Those are strikes against the Heat, but every potential landing spot has its own big strikes, especially for a guy such as LeBron who wants to win instantly. The Cavaliers roster is talented but very, very green and untested (plus there is some ugly history with the last exit). In Houston, can two ball dominant wing players — LeBron and James Harden — share the ball, plus get Dwight Howard enough touches? In addition the Rockets are in the West and any trip to the West is a much tougher road to the Finals. In Los Angeles it would still be seen as Kobe Bryant’s team, plus that roster is a long, long way from contending. The Bulls can’t offer a max contract like LeBron wants. The Suns have cap space and a nice core, but if LeBron wants to play for an owner really willing to spend does he trust Robert Sarver? The list goes on and on, there is no easy, clean answer for LeBron, especially since moving again to chase a ring likely leads to another public backlash (even if it is Cleveland).

So he can be patient. Let the suitors tweak their rosters and make their pitches. All the while Pat Riley keeps pulling things together to round out the Miami roster. LeBron can sit back and let it play out much longer.

And all the while, the NBA rumor mill will just keep on cranking. Droplets of information will produce wild swings, at least until LeBron reaches an actual answer.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.