Does Eric Bledsoe deserve more than four years, $48 million?

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Eric Bledsoe’s camp wants a max deal, or at least close to it. Max would be five years, $80 million. Bledsoe wants that fifth year.

The Phoenix Suns have offered four years, $48 million. Owner Robert Sarver thinks that’s fair.

This is the kind of negotiation that leads to bad blood between a player and team (and fans), drawn out negotiations in a public setting where both sides have very different views of a player’s value and the risk involved. It leads to fans thinking “he doesn’t care about the team” when to the other sides this is a cold, business negotiation. See Erik Gordon in New Orleans for example 1A.

Bledsoe hasn’t been able to get more in part because he has no leverage — no team was going to offer more if they felt the Suns would just match it, and the Suns said they would match any offer (and the feeling around the league is that wasn’t a bluff).

But how much more could Bledsoe really have gotten? The Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro talked to some league executives and agents who said “not much.”

“I’m surprised that they would offer him that much,” he said. “They don’t need to. It is really fair and, in fact, generous. He is talented, but he has never put it together very long, and he hasn’t been healthy. It’s hard to turn your team over to him.

The question isn’t production — the athletic, dynamic Bledsoe averaged 17.7 points, 5.5 assists, 4.7 rebounds and had a true shooting percentage of .578 and he can knock down threes. Those are borderline All-Star numbers if extended over the course of a season. The concern on a big contract is durability after two knee surgeries that have shortened two of his last three seasons.

For fun, here’s a list of guards making in the $12 million a year ballpark:

Rajon Rondo ($12.9 million), Tony Parker ($12.5), Kyle Lowry ($12), Ty Lawson ($11.6), Tyreke Evans ($11.3), Stephen Curry ($10.6).

Now to be fair there are outliers there. The Curry deal was signed before he had shown he could come back from multiple ankle surgeries like he did, that looks like a steal now but was a gamble at the time. Parker has played for under market value for years. We could go on.

But it’s also fair to say that’s some good company for Bledsoe.

If he really wants the max, or just really wants out of Phoenix, Bledsoe’s option is to play next season for the $3.7 million qualifying offer — take that pay hit for a year, play well and stay healthy, and he’s going to get a nice payday at the other end of it. Hard to say it will be max, but he’d have suitors and options.

But that’s a risk for Bledsoe, who has a long injury history. He could try to get the Suns to give him a player option on the last year of this four-year deal (or get a two-year deal), so that he can opt-out after that if he proves he’s worth more.

The problem is, as we have seen in cases like this around the league, this just all builds up bad blood that doesn’t necessarily go away easily (see Love, Kevin, for an example). Bledsoe’s not making a lot of friends in Phoenix right now.

LeBron James, do you owe Cleveland anything? “I don’t owe anybody anything”

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It will be the biggest off-court topic of the NBA season: Will LeBron James stay with the Cavaliers after this season?

Right now, LeBron doesn’t know the answer to that question for sure. I’m sure he has ideas, but he wisely leaves all his options open, then can make a call next summer when the time comes.

When that time does come, does he owe his hometown Cleveland anything? LeBron answered that question in the latest issue of GQ, and he answered with an emphatic no.

“LeBron James owes nobody anything. Nobody,” he said. “When my mother told me I don’t owe her anything, from that point in time, I don’t owe anybody anything. But what I will give to the city of Cleveland is passion, commitment, and inspiration. As long as I put that jersey on, that’s what I represent. That’s why I’m there — to inspire that city. But I don’t owe anybody anything.”

That’s not what Cavs fans may want to hear, but it’s also spot on. LeBron has given this franchise everything he has, he has brought them the first title the team has had in 50 years, and nobody sane can question his passion or how hard he plays.

LeBron could well get to his eighth straight NBA Finals, feel he’s on a team that can push the Warriors, then look at his options — the Lakers and a young core that doesn’t defend well, for example — and think maybe he’s best where he’s at. Perhaps he teams up with another star in Los Angeles or somewhere else. If LeBron called up 28 teams and said “I want to come there” those teams would make whatever moves they needed to for the deal to happen. (I say 28 because the Warriors wouldn’t, and even they’d think about it.)

LeBron has the leverage, and he is always a guy who keeps his options open. He will be asked about his future in every road stop, he will dodge the questions, and we’ll try to read the tea leaves, but as of right now LeBron doesn’t know for sure what LeBron will do next summer. Neither do we.

Report: Final season of LaMarcus Aldridge’s contract extension just $7 million guaranteed

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Spurs big LaMarcus Aldridge, who will earn $21,461,010 this season, agreed to exercise his $22,347,015 player option for 2018-19 in conjunction with signing a two-year, $50 million contract extension.

As usual, the devil is in the details.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Guaranteeing Aldridge just $7 million in 2020-21, when he’ll be 35, is obviously to San Antonio’s advantage relative to fully guaranteeing his extension. But it sets up an uneasy choice for the Spurs. Their three options for Aldridge will be:

  • Pay him $24 million in 2020-21 to play for them
  • Pay him $7 million in 2020-21 not to play for them
  • Pay him $2,333,333 in each 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23 not to play for them

There’s a solid chance that none of those are appealing.

Some speculated San Antonio extended Aldridge to facilitate a trade, removing uncertainty stemming from Aldridge’s player option. Though the Spurs now can’t trade him before the deadline, they could move him in the offseason.

But that 15% trade kicker is a significant inhibitor. His salary is already lofty for his age. An increase would only dissuade teams.

The simplest explanation is probably correct: The Spurs value the stability of their core, no matter how old it is, over flexibility.

Thunder give P.J. Dozier No. 35, Kevin Durant’s old number

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The Thunder signed P.J. Dozier, who went undrafted out of South Carolina, to a seemingly innocuous two-way contract.

Then, they let him pick No. 35 – previously worn by Kevin Durant.

Erik Horne of The Oklahoman:

Honoring Reggie Lewis seems like a valid reason for Dozier, who probably didn’t want to get swept into what has become a minor controversy.

Personally, I don’t mind a player wearing any unretired number. Even numbers that will clearly be retired can be fair game until the jersey goes into the rafters. This is a non-issue to me.

But people care about this stuff. Many see it as a sign of disrespect to Durant, who left Oklahoma City on bad terms when signing with the Warriors. The Thunder lose deniability about not caring, considering they told Dion Waiters he couldn’t wear No. 13, which was previously worn by James Harden.

Will Oklahoma City eventually retire Durant’s No. 35? He spent a fantastic eight years there (and another season with the Seattle SuperSonics before they moved). Time will ease the bitterness of his exit. It’s certainly possible he’s honored that way.

In the meantime, let Dozier wear No. 35 in peace. It should have nothing to do with Durant.

Cornrowed Joel Embiid calls minute limit f—ing BS

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76ers center Joel Embiid made clear yesterday he disliked the minute restriction placed on him, which Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said would keep Embiid below 20 minutes per game.

Today, sporting a new hairstyle, Embiid upped the rhetoric.

Embiid, via Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

“That’s f—ing BS,” he said after practice Tuesday. “I wish I was playing more minutes. I think I’m ready for more than I don’t know whatever number they have.”

“I think the concept of minute restrictions is kind of complicated,” Embiid said. “I don’t think there should ever be minute restrictions. I think it should always be about how my body feels and how it’s reacting.”

“They know that I’m frustrated, but once again you’ve got to trust the doctors,” Embiid said. “They care about me. It’s all about the long-term view.”

“Like I always say,” he said, “you’ve got to trust the process.”

We’ve been here before – an injury-prone Philadelphia center rocking cornrows (at least Embiid went all the way with them) and Embiid lashing out at his minute limit.

Embiid is incredibly competitive, and he can’t just turn it off. It’s an attribute that contributes to his on-court excellence.

Embiid appears to have just enough trust-the-process perspective here, but Brown will also likely have his hands full keeping Embiid from getting too frustrated throughout the season.

At least Embiid has his contract extension and isn’t restless to get on the court and earn his big payday.