Reports: It’s LeBron, agent, Pat Riley alone in a room Wednesday afternoon In Vegas

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Everything else is just chatter.

There have moves to lay the foundations in Cleveland and Miami — trades to clear cap space, and mid-level exception signings — but those are just part of the storm swirling around the periphery, not the thing at the center. Then there are the rumors of what his agent wants or his wife wants, dream trade scenarios, superstars holding out fantasies of joining forces, and none of that really matters.

What matters is what’s in LeBron James’ head and he has been silent. Here’s what we do know — Pat Riley and LeBron James are meeting in Vegas today and it’s a small group.

That means no Dwyane Wade, no owner Micky Arison. Just the guys with the real power across the table from each other (and their right hand men). What does that mean? Nobody really knows. What you think it means really says more about what you want to come out of this meeting than it does the actual meeting itself.

Here are my thoughts as we wait for a meeting that may provide some clarity and be the first domino in free agency.

• What matters here is what LeBron wants — more than any other superstar (save maybe Kobe) LeBron runs his own show now. He listens to others, but this is a more mature LeBron than the one that left Cleveland four years ago. LeBron steers his own ship and this will be his call and his call alone.

• LeBron knows that Kyrie Irving is better than anyone on the Heat right now, but he also knows that the rest of that Cavs roster is young and untested (and Minnesota isn’t looking for picks or rookies in a Kevin Love deal). If he’s on Cleveland they are contenders, one of the best teams in the East, but is he closer to a title next season than he would be in Miami? Could they beat the best in the West? Is that move lateral on the court in the short term?

• Are Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger a big upgrade? No. It’s about the best Riley could do acting like a capped out team, but it’s not that impressive.

• In 2016 what is expected to be a much-increased new national television deal is going to kick in and flood the system with cash — the salary cap will jump, and as max salaries are a percentage of the cap they will jump also. Meaning a max contract in two years is worth a lot more than one today.

• A lot of people around LeBron want him to return to Cleveland. Remember when LeBron was in Cleveland before he and his posse had the complete run of the place, they had real power. Miami doesn’t work that way, it’s Pat Riley’s show (and the city is sloppy with celebrities). Some people would love that power and attention again. Question is does LeBron?

• Outside of the obvious Miami fans complaints (how many notice before the season starts next year?), if you want to know what the backlash to LeBron going to Cleveland looks like, it looks like what J.A. Adande wrote at ESPN. That he surrendered his leverage as league spokesman. It’s not just the Dan Gilbert letter, it’s Gilbert was a hard liner in the last CBA negotiations that LeBron railed against.

• For all those reasons — and what most around the league said — I used to think a return to the Cavs this summer was a long shot at best. It’s not anymore, it’s a very real possibility. LeBron himself may not be speaking but he apparently did reach out to veterans to see if they want to come to Cleveland. He is considering it. Seriously considering.

• Carmelo Anthony is waiting — if LeBron chooses Miami Chris Bosh is expected to return to South Beach too, but if LeBron goes to Miami and Bosh goes to Houston anyway Anthony might squeeze into Miami. Also, I might win the Powerball Lottery. Close to the same odds, but ‘Melo is holding on to his ticket.

• My guess (and that of others around the league) is LeBron re-signs for two max years in Miami, and we do this all again in 2016. And the Cavs very well could win then, although it’s hard to see that far into the future in an ever-shifting NBA landscape.

Kevin Durant on Giannis Antetokounmpo: “I would tell him to play for himself”

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Kevin Durant was once the big star in a little city. The former Oklahoma City Thunder star now plays for the Golden State Warriors, and has a championship ring to his name after making a switch in 2016.

So Durant has at least some experience similar to that of Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak is currently leading the charge for the Bucks against the Boston Celtics in the first round, and he’s seen as the future in Milwaukee. Antetokounmpo signed a 4-year, $100 million contract in the summer of 2016, so presumably he’ll be in Wisconsin for some time.

Meanwhile, Durant had some advice for Antetokounmpo, should he ask for it. In a feature on ESPN, Durant was quoted as saying he felt Antetokounmpo should be sure to have fun, and to play for himself.

Via ESPN:

What I would say to him, I would tell him to play for himself,” Durant said. “Because he’s the one out there putting in the work, he’s the one out there getting up in the morning staying committed to the game. Obviously [the comments about staying put] sounds good to the fans in Milwaukee and to the ownership, because he cares so much about wanting to please them and play well for them, and I get it. But his career is about him; it’s about whatever he wants to do and however he feels is right for him. And what type of basketball does he want to play? He’s not going to stay in Milwaukee if he’s not having fun playing the game.

That’s some pretty good advice, although factors surrounding Antetokounmpo will likely weigh the same as they did on Durant in OKC. The Bucks presumably need a new coach once their season ends. They’re currently helmed by interim coach Joe Prunty, who took over when Jason Kidd was fired earlier this year.

The Bucks also need to fill out their roster and find a way to stay healthy. The Thunder famously had roster issues (read: the James Harden trade) and eventually the lack of playoff success drove Durant to switch teams.

Milwaukee doesn’t seem close to that kind of juncture, although eventually things will flip for the young Bucks and fans and management will expect some kind of production in the postseason.

Giannis Antetokounmpo beats Celtics with late-game tip-in, series goes 2-2 (VIDEO)

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It was an exciting finish in Milwaukee on Sunday, where the Bucks took home a win on their home court to level the series against the Boston Celtics, 2-2.

The game came down to the wire, with 2016-17 NBA Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon giving the Bucks the lead after a corner 3-pointer with just 33.5 seconds left. The Celtics responded with a sideline out of bounds play that resulted in Al Horford tying the game with free throws.

On their final possession, the Bucks again went to Brogdon, who missed on a layup driving to the left side of the floor. Luckily, Giannis Antetokounmpo was there to follow with the tip-in with just five seconds left.

Via ESPN:

Boston was unable to convert on a final play, and Milwaukee grabbed the win, 104-102.

Game 5 will be in Boston on Tuesday.

Report: Ime Udoka, Ettore Messina, David Fizdale to interview for Hornets job

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The Charlotte Hornets have a new GM in Mitch Kupchak. Upon taking the helm, Kupchak made short work of firing head coach Steve Clifford.

Now, the Hornets need a new coach and they have quite a few names to choose from.

According to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Hornets will be interviewing current San Antonio Spurs assistants Ime Udoka and Ettore Messina along with former Memphis Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale.

Via Twitter:

All three have extensive coaching experience under their belts. Udoka played in the NBA for seven seasons and has been an assistant coach in San Antonio since 2012.

Messina is a four-time Euroleague champion as a coach, and a two-time winner of the Euroleague Coach of the Year award. He’s coached abroad and in the U.S. since 1989, and he’s been with the Spurs since 2014.

Fizdale coached the Grizzlies for two seasons. Before that he was a longtime assistant coach with the Miami Heat under Erik Spoelstra.

Hornets star Kemba Walker said that who the team chose as GM would influence his decision to re-sign after 2018-19. Walker loved Clifford, so who Charlotte picks as coach could carry significant weight with Walker as well.

LeBron James, Cavaliers hope to even series with Pacers

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — LeBron James has been in this playoff position before, just not in the first round.

With Cleveland down 2-1 to the Indiana Pacers in the first round, James was asked if Game 4 in Indianapolis Sunday was a must win.

“It’s the postseason,” said James, who is 10-0 in his career in first-round playoff series with Cleveland and Miami. “Every game is a must win. You want to come in and play well and win no matter what. No matter if you have home-court advantage or if you’re starting on the road, that’s the mindset you have to have. I felt like (Friday) was a must win. We didn’t win, obviously, but it’s the same mindset on Sunday.”

James, who scored 28 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and delivered eight assists in a 92-90 road loss Friday night, rejected what he felt were reporters’ attempts to ask if the other players needed to do more.

“You guys think I’m going to throw my teammates under the bus? I’m not about that,” James said. “Guys just, we have to be better, including myself. Had six turnovers (Friday). I was horrible in the third quarter, couldn’t make a shot. If I had made some better plays in the third quarter, the lead doesn’t skip.”

The Pacers cut a 17-point halftime deficit to six points in the third quarter and finally took their first lead in the fourth quarter.

“We know we all gotta play better as a collective group, no matter who it is,” James said. “We got production to start the game and in the second half there wasn’t much production. We still had a chance to win. We’ve got to regroup and figure how we can be better in Game 4.”

Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said the Cavaliers were limited because George Hill‘s back “locked up” in the second half. Hill played only nine minutes in the second half, scoring two of his 13 points. Lue used James and Jordan Clarkson rather than backup point guard Jose Calderon in the fourth quarter. If Hill can’t go Sunday, Lue said he will likely start Calderon.

Hill had an MRI on Saturday, but the results weren’t back. He is listed as questionable for Game 4 with back spasms. Hill was hurt during Game 1 when Trevor Booker set a back screen and felt stiffness before Game 2, but played 20 minutes.

For the Pacers, Bojan Bogdanovic was the difference maker, scoring 15 of his team-high 30 points in the fourth quarter. Bogdanovic struggled shooting the first two games of the series.

Bogdanovic, who made 7 of 9 3-pointers, kept his focus after two quick fouls in the first quarter and had to leave briefly in the fourth when he picked up his fifth foul. The seven 3-pointers tied a franchise playoff record, also held by Reggie Miller twice, Chuck Person and Paul George.

“I thought it was going to be another poor performance from myself, but in the second half I started hitting shots and started feeling (much) better and I think a did a great job (Friday night),” the Croatian forward said.

Bogdanovic said he was most pleased with his defense against James.

“Everybody thought before this season that I cannot play defense,” he said. “I don’t say that I am playing great defense, but I am working hard at trying to make it tough for each offensive player that I am guarding.”

Bogdanovic said he tries to push James so he catches the ball far from the basket.

“Against those type of players you just try to stay aggressive on them,” Bogdanovic said.

Pacers coach Nate McMillan was impressed with his ability to produce both ways.

“You’re taking a pounding if you’re on the defensive end of the floor if you’re guarding LeBron,” McMillan said. “But offensively he found some energy. He got some good looks and he knocked them down.”

The Pacers came back to win eight times during the regular season after being down 15 or more points.

“We’ve been resilient,” guard Victor Oladipo said. “We made an adjustment in the second half and it helped us. But it’s only one game; I’m looking forward to Sunday.”