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.

Russell Westbrook threw it down all over Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

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A rough night for the Thunder will not stop the Russell Westbrook highlights.

The Thunder had another poor game and fell to a Hornets. Westbrook tried to push the team back, but the Thunder defense that has kept them in games all season was not good enough against Charlotte, and the OKC offense was once again up and down.

Westbrook had 30 points on 22 shots on the night, and none of them were as impressive as this transition throwdown on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Jahlil Okafor excited about fresh start with Nets

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jahlil Okafor finally got the fresh start he wanted.

Okafor was the consensus No. 1 high school player in his class, won a national championship at Duke, and averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds in his rookie campaign for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Then things changed drastically.

Okafor struggled with injuries and a logjam at his position in his second season.

“When I first got drafted there, we already had Nerlens (Noel) there, Joel (Embiid) was there, so we’re trying to have three starting centers on the same team,” Okafor said Monday at his introductory news conference with his new team, the Brooklyn Nets.

“It just never really was the right fit.”

The 76ers traded Okafor along with seldom-used guard Nik Stauskas and two draft picks to the Nets on Thursday. Philadelphia got forward Trevor Booker from Brooklyn.

Okafor also had off-court problems during his time in Philadelphia. He got a speeding ticket for driving 108 miles per hour and was suspended by the 76ers for two games after in an altercation outside of a Boston nightclub with a heckler.

“Speeding obviously is illegal,” Okafor said. “I know that’s not what you’re supposed to do. I guess you just learn how the page can turn on you and how everything can flip. I can’t really say I learned anything, because you know going in that’s not right. You just learn from your mistakes, but (it was) a tough thing that I went through, I got past, and I’m looking to better times now.”

Okafor, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft, joins D'Angelo Russell, the second overall pick in the same draft class, on the Nets.

“We’re just very excited to get on the court together,” Okafor said. “You never would’ve thought the number two and number three picks would be playing on the same team a few years after, but like I said, everything happens for a reason and I’m really excited.”

Russell also had problems on and off the court with the team that drafted him. He was criticized for recording a video of former Lakers teammate Nick Young that aired sordid details about Young’s private life. The Lakers gave up on Russell and drafted Lonzo Ball as his replacement.

“I feel like we’re similar in that we have a lot to prove,” Okafor said. “I know he’s working his (butt) off as well. Right now he’s rehabbing, trying to get back on the court. I think we both have a chip on our shoulder and we have a lot to prove. We’re definitely similar in that regard.”

Okafor understands he has areas to improve, mainly defense and rebounding.

“I’m not a perfect player,” Okafor said. “I’m 21. There are things that I need to work on, that I have worked on and that I’ll continue to work on.”

He’s excited about fulfilling his potential with a new team.

“I feel really motivated right now, but I’ve always been motivated,” Okafor said. “This is the first time where people are against me in a sense because I’ve always been the hyped-up guy. It’s something new for me to experience, so I’m glad that I am experiencing it.”

 

Report: Celtics’ Marcus Morris to miss “extended time” to let knee heal

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Marcus Morris missed the Celtics’ first eight games of the season in an effort to get healthy. Upon his return he’s been solid, first as a starter, then coming off the bench, but his left knee continued to be an issue.

Morris was out Sunday when the Celtics beat the Pistons, and he’s going to miss more time trying to get a troublesome left knee right, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

How much time is “extended time?” Probably at least a couple of weeks.

Morris has averaged 12.1 points and 5.5 rebounds a game this season, with a true shooting percentage of 52.5, which is right around the league average.

This could mean more run for rookie forwards Semi Ojeleye and Daniel Theis, both of whom have played well in limited minutes.

Tristan Thompson expected to return to Cavaliers Tuesday, come off bench

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson could play for the first time since Nov. 1 on Tuesday against Atlanta.

Thompson has been sidelined with a strained left calf. The team initially said Thompson would be out for up to four weeks, but he said Monday that timeline was inaccurate and that his injury was more serious. Thompson did not divulge any other details about the injury.

Coach Tyronn Lue says Thompson will not start when he returns, meaning Kevin Love will remain at center. Thompson says he’s fine with a reserve role and made it clear he’s willing to do whatever Lue needs.

The Cavaliers have won 14 of 15 and their defense has improved dramatically over the past month.

Thompson says he’ll have the same mindset on the floor as always and “just be myself. Being myself has worked out pretty well for me.”