Jazz expected to match Hornets’ max contract offer to Gordon Hayward, which is absolutely the right decision

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The Hornets gave Gordon Hayward an offer sheet of a four-year max contract, and while nothing can be signed until the NBA’s free agency moratorium period ends on July 10, he has reportedly agreed to sign it when the time comes.

The Jazz have said all along that the plan was to match any offer Hayward received, and multiple reports confirmed this again once the news of the agreement between Hayward and Charlotte became publicly official.

The money being thrown at Hayward may seem excessive at first glance — $63 million guaranteed over four years, although the last year is a player option that may see Hayward choose to leave in free agency before Utah is officially on the hook for that final $16.7 million.

But should the Jazz match as expected, it’s absolutely the right decision.

It’s worth noting that just because we call all four- or five-year contracts “maximum,” that doesn’t mean that they’re all worth the same. They’re the maximum length allowed under the collective bargaining agreement, but the amount depends on how long a player has been in the league, and whether they re-sign with their current team or leave to go somewhere else.

Carmelo Anthony’s four-year max, for example, should he leave the Knicks to sign with someone like the Lakers, is $97 million — far more than Hayward’s number of $63 million, which is necessary to point out to provide some perspective.

It’s still a lot for Hayward, but there’s a reason teams like the Hornets and the Jazz are willing to offer it — they simply don’t have a lot of other choices.

The next marquee free agent that voluntarily chooses to play for the Jazz will be the first. Star-level players never even consider Utah when free agency comes, so if the Jazz are fortunate enough to draft well, they need to overpay for that level of talent if they want to entice it to stay.

Restricted free agency is in place for precisely this reason, to give small market teams a chance to hang onto their rookies for up to seven seasons. That will be the case with Hayward, who has been in Utah for four years and can opt out after three more to pursue unrestricted free agency if that’s what he ultimately believes will be best.

Hayward isn’t quite an All-Star just yet, and didn’t improve as much as expected last season, despite getting a significant bump in minutes. Still, his averages of 16.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.4 steals in 36.4 minutes per contest show a more-than-solid overall game that’s worth waiting out.

As a comparison, those numbers (steals not included) were matched by only four other players in the league last season —  LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Michael Carter-Williams.

At his current level of production, and even with a small amount of projected improvement, Hayward might not be worth a max contract to teams more closely considered to be actual title contenders. But for markets like Charlotte and Utah, Hayward would be a fine signing at that amount — not only because of his acceptable relative level of talent, but also because of their somewhat limited options.

Akron store already selling “Stay Home 23” shirts, hats as LeBron decision looms

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We’ve seen this movie before.

There is all sorts of buzz around the league that LeBron James has one foot out the door in Cleveland. While people around LeBron denied he the rumor he is “100 percent” leaving, good luck finding any league source who thinks he is staying put next summer. Nothing is set in stone, his options — including staying — remain open, but we’ve all been down this road before.

The hometown fans are going to do their part to urge LeBron to stay.

Fan sentiment has some pull with LeBron (he came back to win the city a title). However, what matters more is a sense of a plan to keep the Cavaliers as title contenders for the coming years — and that is more than just Dan Gilbert paying the tax. The Cavs did nothing this summer that got them closer to beating Golden State, and while they swung for the fences with Paul George, what they really needed was wing defenders and athletes, and they didn’t get those either. Luc Mbah a Moute signed a one-year deal for the minimum somewhere else. Instead, Cleveland overpaid Kyle Korver.

Despite all that, the Cavs remain the team to beat in the East. If Cleveland gets to the Finals — LeBron’s eighth in a row — and they win or make it close, he may see staying as his best option. A season can be a lifetime in the NBA in terms of shifting attitudes. Still, I wouldn’t bet the rent on it.

Marshall Plumlee gets camp invite, partially guaranteed contract from Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers have 14 fully guaranteed contracts on their roster, plus a partial guarantee for DeAndre Liggins (who likely is on the roster opening day). They also are pretty much set at center with DeAndre Jordan and Willie Reed (plus when they go small they can play Blake Griffin there, something I wish they’d do a little more).

That said, Doc Rivers — just a coach now — needs bodies for camp, so in comes former Duke star and Knick Marshall Plumlee, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Plumlee played in 21 games for the Knicks last season, logging a total of 190 minutes. He bounced between New York and the D-League Westchester Knicks, when down he averaged 12.3 points and 9.8 rebounds a game.

He’s not making the Clippers’ squad (barring injury), but he could show well and get noticed by other teams. Over the course of a season, there will be a need for bigs as guys go down injured, Plumlee is getting a chance to show how his game has developed. And he makes some money in the process.

Kawhi Leonard is smiling, and that confuses Manu Ginobili (PHOTO)

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Much like Kevin Durant, it appears that Kawhi Leonard is having a great summer.

In fact, this appears to be the Summer of Kawhi Smiling. Which, according to one of his longtime teammates, is a bit confusing.

When the Spurs posted a photo of Leonard with a big old grin on his face to their Twitter feed recently, San Antonio legend Manu Ginobili responded asking the team whether something was up.

Specifically, Ginobili said that he had seen more photos of Leonard smiling in the past two days then he had in six seasons as a teammate.

Via Twitter:

You can leave an anonymous tip about why Kawhi Leonard is smiling so much by contacting the produce manager at your local H-E-B.

Kobe is the Lakers’ all-time leader in steals (and other trivia rookies don’t know)

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“He played 20 years … I mean, yeah I guess.”

That’s what Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball had to say in this video after learning that Kobe Bryant was the all-time leader in steals for his franchise. You have to hand it to him, it is a little surprising. Even more surprising is that Bryant has 220 more than Magic Johnson at No. 2.

In a video posted to YouTube by Complex on Saturday, rookies tried to answer questions similar to the one Ball pondered over, like what team drafted their head coach, who the NBA all-time leading scorer is, and what day the first game of the season starts on.

A lot of the responses were pretty funny, including the guys getting wrong what year Adam Silver became NBA commissioner. Poor David Stern has already been forgotten about!

Meanwhile, Ball looked the sharpest. He’s going to come in handy when the Lakers play pub trivia.