LeBron James finally meets with Cavaliers coach David Blatt, GM David Griffin

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It tells you just how badly LeBron James wanted to go home — or just how confident he is he can lead any team of decent players to a title — that LeBron chose a return to Cleveland without meeting coach David Blatt or GM David Griffin. Maybe a little of both.

But finally LeBron and Blatt with Griffin sat down and talked on Tuesday, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

LeBron James met with new Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt and new general manager David Griffin in person for the first time Tuesday as he prepared for the upcoming season, sources told ESPN.com.

James had been busy promoting his brand and Nike, traveling to Brazil and China — all the while sticking to a Paleo diet and losing at least 10 pounds.

Blatt is a mystery to most stateside basketball fans. He was born in the United States and played at Princeton, but spent most of his coaching career in Europe where he had great success — he won the EuroLeague title with Maccabi Tel Aviv — and became known as an offensive genius.

With LeBron, Kyrie Irving and likely Kevin Love in the fold, he’s got a lot of talent to work with.

Speaking with Blatt in Las Vegas during Summer league, he said he wants is an offense that is unpredictable in the way the Princeton offense is unpredictable, or the triangle, or what the Spurs are doing now.

“Without question, we have some really good and intelligent players,” Blatt told ProBasketballTalk. “That will allow us to be a lot more read oriented then specific play oriented.”

“I have a big job to figure out the best way for us to play and utilize the many, many possibilities that are now at our disposal…” Blatt said in a different interview in Vegas. “There are a lot of possibilities and factors to be considered in building a team with guys that really want to play and want to play right.”

It’s likely Blatt and LeBron talked some offensive philosophy, and more importantly defensive philosophy. With this roster the Cavaliers are going to score points, it’s how good they become at stopping teams that will decide how good they are and how far they go. Can they protect the paint with Anderson Varejao as center?

More likely, there was also a lot of talk of team building. LeBron wants to win now, he’s in legacy building mode, and with his short contract he has a lot of leverage. What he wants he gets. Starting with Love.

For Blatt and Griffin the leash will be short. LeBron has the power and Gilbert is not exactly the patient, build-a-culture-slowly kind of guy. They need to prove they can do the job called on them fast, or changes will come in.

That probably wasn’t discussed when everyone met Tuesday, but you can bet it was in the air.

Report: John Wall’s extension includes player option

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The Wizards had John Wall under contract for the next two seasons then signed him to a super-max extension that locks him in for an additional four three years.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I’m a little surprised the Wizards gave Wall a player option considering their leverage.

Wall’s extension projects to pay him $169 million over four years – $30 million more than another team’s projected max offer over the same span. Even if Wall wanted to stay in Washington, this was the only offseason he could’ve ensured receiving the super-max rate. Had he rejected the extension now, he would have been eligible for the super max only by making an All-NBA team either of the next two years – far from guaranteed.

Still, the Wizards gave Wall everything – the highest-possible salary, max raises, a player option and a trade kicker.* There’s value in pleasing the franchise player. Wall will be the team’s third-highest-paid player for the next two years (behind Otto Porter and Bradley Beal), which might have bothered Wall if not for the super-max extension about to kick in. This deal makes locker-room harmony more likely.

But it also allows Wall to hit free agency in 2022 rather than 2023. Maybe that won’t matter. Wall’s salary option-year salary projects to be $47 million when he’s 32-years-old. I doubt Wall opts out then, though it’s certainly possible.

Effectively, if Wall is worth that much in 2022, he’ll be a free agent. If he’s not worth that much, Washington committed to pay him.

*The trade kicker is unlikely to to matter unless the salary cap unexpectedly increases significantly. It can’t lift Wall’s salary above 35% of the salary cap in the season he’s traded, and he’ll likely be at or above that mark throughout the extension anyway.

Basketball Hall of Famer John Kundla dies at 101

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — John Kundla, the Hall of Fame coach who led the Minneapolis Lakers to five NBA championships, died Sunday. He was 101.

Son Jim Kundla said his father died at an assisted living facility in Northeast Minneapolis that he has called home for years.

Kundla coached George Mikan and the Lakers in the 1940s and 1950s, helping them become the NBA’s first dynasty. He went 423-302 before retiring at the age of 42 and went on to coach his alma mater, the University of Minnesota.

Kundla was the oldest living Hall of Famer in any of the four major pro sports.

Kundla was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995. A year later, he was named one of the league’s 10 greatest coaches as part of the league’s “NBA at 50” celebration.

 

Report: Magic signing Marreese Speights to one-year, minimum contract

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It’s a tough market for free-agent centers, as Marreese Speights learned the hard way.

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:

I wonder whether Speights regrets opting out with the Clippers, who were also slated to pay him a minimum salary. Not only is he stuck with a low-paying deal, he’s on a worse team and one with center depth.

Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo should play only center, where Speights is best. Speights can also play power forward, but Aaron Gordon should get all his minutes there. Maybe Jonathan Isaac should, too, though it’s more tolerable to play him at small forward while the rookie adjusts to the NBA.

Simply, there won’t be much playing time for Speights unless Orlando makes a trade (maybe this is a harbinger) or plays too big of lineups (a lesson it should have learned last season).

Likewise, the Clippers will be fine, though less versatile, without Speights. The acquired Willie Reed (free agency) and Montrezl Harrell (Chris Paul trade) to play behind DeAndre Jordan.

Speights clearly isn’t essential, but he has expanded his range beyond the 3-point arc. He defends with effort, though not necessarily well. There’s a place in the league for stretch fives like him. But he turns 30 in a couple weeks, and his stock is clearly low. At least he’ll have a chance for a bigger payday next summer.

Kristaps Porzingis on Knicks: “This is where I want to stay… this is where I want to win”

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There were multiple, connected reasons it was time for the Knicks to move on from the Phil Jackson era — a triangle of reasons, really — but this one should have been at the top of the list:

He was alienating Krisptaps Porzingis.

We don’t know yet if Porzingis can be a franchise NBA player, however, he shows the potential to do it. He could become a top five NBA player you can build a contender around. You endear yourselves to those kinds of players, not get into power struggles that lead to said player blowing off end-of-year meetings and being guided out the door.

With Jackson gone, Porzingis has more motivation to stay a Knick and be the guy that turns the franchise’s fortunes around. KP was running a youth hoops camp in his native Latvia and was taking questions from the children when one kid got in a question the New York media would have loved to ask: Are you going to abandon New York? Here is Porzingis’ answer, translated and obtained by the New York Post.

“I feel that it is the best place to win. And if you win in New York, you are king. For the last two years, I have had so many positive emotions here that this is where I want to stay and that this is where I want to win.”

The Knicks have their cornerstone big. Now they need a guy on the outside (Kyrie Irving will get mentioned, but he is not the only answer), they need to get and develop young players to go with their stars. It’s the next phase for the Knicks.

But if they can keep Porzingis happy, they can lock him up to a max rookie extension after next year and have that piece in place. Then it’s up to Steve Mills and Scott Perry to put the pieces around him.