Heat free agency update: LeBron to meet with Riley; Rockets go hard after Chris Bosh

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Miami is a free agent circus — not just some clowns and an elephant, more like an ensemble number from The Beatles LOVE by Cirque du Soleil. You can’t take it all in, it’s overwhelming and at times just ridiculous.

Using both personal sources and other reports, here are where things stand heading into Monday with the biggest free agent story of the summer — the goal here is to avoid speculation or gut feelings and just lay out the facts as I understand them.

• LeBron James and his camp are not talking, according to league sources speaking to ProBasketballTalk. Everything people are saying about what LeBron is thinking is not coming from his real inner circle — they learned their lesson back in 2010 and are talking less than a Navy Seal team about to head out on a mission.

• LeBron is going to meet this week with Pat Riley to get an update on plans to fill out the Heat’s roster and discuss LeBron’s plans, something first reported by Sam Amick at the USA Today (and since confirmed by other reports).

LeBron James and his agent, Rich Paul, plan on meeting with Miami Heat president Pat Riley in person early this week, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

Riley has had meetings with multiple available free agents — Luol Deng, Pau Gasol, Isaiah Thomas, Anthony Morrow, Martell Webster and others. However, until he has a firm salary number from “the big three” Riley cannot have firm numbers to give free agents.

• LeBron’s agent has taken meetings with a number of teams including the Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers and others. Those were not meetings involving LeBron himself and participants said they were preliminary in nature.

The Cavaliers and other teams are working to clear cap space in event LeBron does decide to come.

• LeBron’s radio silence has made it uncomfortable for Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who are considering their options… well, mostly Bosh because he has other good options. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports laid this out.

https://twitter.com/WojYahooNBA/status/485988501150646272

• About those other Bosh options, the Rockets expect that this week they will learn they did not land Carmelo Anthony and they are going to make a hard run at Bosh, reports Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

The Houston Rockets have ramped up their pursuit of Chris Bosh and are, in the words on one source, “heavily engaged” in trying to convince the All-Star power forward to leave the Miami Heat in free agency…

It is widely assumed throughout the league that Bosh will only be willing to leave Miami if James leaves first, after Bosh said numerous times during the season that he intended to stay with the Heat, even if it required taking a pay cut from last season’s $19 million salary. So Miami remains the favorite to sign him.

Frankly, I think Bosh is a better fit for the Rockets than Anthony.

• Bosh has said on multiple occasions he is very happy in Miami and doesn’t want to leave, but that was always under the assumption that LeBron James would stay. Bosh was the most vocal of the big three about the group staying together.

• It is assumed Wade will remain with Miami regardless of the outcome of anything else.

Irving’s 47 lead Celtics past Mavericks to maintain streak

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DALLAS (AP) — Kyrie Irving scored 10 of his season-high 47 points in overtime as the Boston Celtics rallied once again from a double-digit deficit to beat the Dallas Mavericks 110-102 on Monday night and extend their winning streak to 16 games.

The Mavericks led by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter, but as they have several times during their winning streak, the Celtics stormed back.

The winning streak ties the fourth-longest in Celtics history.

Boston tied the game at 96 when Irving stole the ball from Dirk Nowitzki and fed Jayson Tatum for an alley-oop lay-up that hung on the rim for a full second before dropping through.

Irving scored his team’s first six points of overtime. Then after Jaylen Brown gave Boston a 104-102 lead with a jumper with 1:39 to play, Irving went to work on Yogi Ferrell, backing him down and drawing contact on a lay-up with 48.5 seconds to play. Though Irving missed the free throw to keep the score 106-102, Dallas never got closer.

Harrison Barnes scored 31 points and Wesley Matthews had 18 for Dallas, which came back from an early double-digit deficit as the Celtics went cold for much of the second and third quarters.

Irving and Barnes had chances in the final 30 seconds but both missed shots that would have given their teams the lead.

The Mavericks fell behind by as many as 15 points in the first half, outscoring the Celtics 55-35 over the second and third quarters.

Dallas took its biggest lead of the game when Yogi Ferrell fed a cutting Dwight Powell for a lay-up to make it 87-74 with 7:47 to play before the Celtics rallied.

Boston shot just 10-for-34 over the two middle quarters after building the early lead.

 

DeMarcus Cousins ejected after elbowing Russell Westbrook in head

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DeMarcus Cousins‘ history of flagrant fouls certainly didn’t help him here, but if anyone elbows a guy in the head, he’s going to get tossed.

And that’s what Cousins did here.

Midway through the third quarter in New Orleans, Cousins blocked a putback attempt by Russell Westbrook, then grabbed the rebound. Westbrook tried to reach in across Cousins’ body for the steal, and Cousins cleared out space with his elbow — right to Westbrook’s head. Cousins walked around saying “no, no, no” afterward, and he likely thinks the officials had it out for him here because he was just getting a guy off him, but we go back to the original point — elbow a guy in the head, get tossed. The league is cracking down on blows above the neck. Westbrook did not leave the game.

The Pelicans went on to come from 19 down to win the game 114-107, behind 36 points and 15 boards from Anthony Davis.

Damn, Paul George with the in-game bounce pass alley-oop to Jerami Grant

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The game has been close (as of midway through the third quarter), but that didn’t stop Oklahoma City from putting on a show in New Orleans.

Paul George had the ball on a 2-on-0 fast break and decided to throw the playground bounce-pass alley-oop, which Jerami Grant got up and finished with authority. This could be one of the dunks of the year.

We’re going to see that highlight for a while.

Jusuf Nurkic’s agent says big man wants to stay in Portland this summer

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Last season, after his trade from frustrated backup big in Denver to new starter in Portland, there was a honeymoon — the Blazers went 14-6, their defense was better, and Nurkic was a big man setting big picks for quick guards in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

This season the honeymoon is over, things have been up and down, but far from time to say the marriage should end, as he is a free agent next summer. Nurkic is the only real starting center on the roster (even if coach Terry Stotts left him on the bench in the fourth quarter in favor of Ed Davis a few games back). Nurkic is averaging 14.6 points and 7.2 rebounds a game, and the Blazers’ defense is 1.5 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court. However, his effort level has been up and down, and his shot is off, with a true shooting percentage of just 49.4, and he is shooting just 56.6 percent in the restricted area.

Nurkic wants to stay in Portland, his agent told Ben Golliver in a story at Sports Illustrated (that story is worth the read for the Nurkic origin story, which is amazing).

“I feel like the Blazers are very happy with Jusuf and Jusuf is very happy there,” Tesch, the agent, told The Crossover by telephone this week. “We had some [extension] talks but we decided to play it out this year and engage in talks again in July. He has already proven that he can help the team. There is a fit for Jusuf in Portland and he’s looking to stay there long-term.”

The two sides talked extension before the season, but Portland understandably wanted to make sure there was more to this relationship than just a honeymoon. It gave Nurkic a chance to drive up his asking price.

Portland and Nurkic likely will find a long-term deal next summer because it just makes sense for both sides. There are not a lot of teams with max free agent money next summer (4-6, I was told by an insider), or a lot of money to spend in general, and both DeAndre Jordan and DeMarcus would be centers on the market who rank ahead of Nurkic. Portland will offer more than other free agent destinations, if not as much as Nurkic dreamed of, and they will find common ground.

But there is a lot of season to play out before then. The Blazers feel like a team that should be better than its record so far, and Nurkic is part of that untapped potential. If things change, that’s good for Nurkic — and the Blazers.