2011 NBA All-Star Game

The other way LeBron James helped the Cavaliers trade for Kevin Love

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LeBron James helped the Cavaliers land Kevin Love in the most obvious ways.

By signing in Cleveland, LeBron turned the franchise into a desirable destination for star players. He even personally coaxed Love into coming. (Yes, the Timberwolves could trade Love wherever he wanted, but for the most part, teams weren’t going to make quality offers without knowing Love wanted to join them.)

But LeBron also helped the Cavaliers’ Love bid in more subtle ways.

When he left in 2010, LeBron set up the Cavaliers to be bad enough to win the lottery three times in four years. Two of those No. 1 picks – Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett – will go to Minnesota in the trade, and the other – Kyrie Irving – helps make Cleveland appealing to Love.

LeBron also went to the Heat via a sign-and-trade. It got him more money, something not possible under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. It also netted the Cavaliers two first rounders and two second rounders.

One of those first rounders – top-10 protected in 2015 and 2016, unprotected in 2017 – is still pending. It just won’t be going to Cleveland anymore.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

That has to rub salt in the wound of already-salty Heat fans.

Cleveland also has the Grizzlies’ first-round pick (top-five and 15-30 protected in 2015 and 2016, top-five protected in 2017 and 2018 and unprotected in 2019) and the lesser of its own and the Bulls’ 2015 first rounder (if the Cavaliers make the playoffs; otherwise they keep their own pick).

The Cavaliers/Bulls pick clearly has the lowest value, and depending how you evaluate Memphis, the other two are close. Based on how these negotiations went, I bet Flip Saunders got his choice.

With Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Luol Deng, the Heat should avoid one of the NBA’s 10 worst records, meaning they’d send their pick to Minnesota this season. But Miami also shouldn’t be too good to avoid that pick falling into the late 20s.

LeBron leaving the Heat made that pick more valuable – just valuable enough to land him a star teammate in Cleveland.

Ben Simmons says he plans to work on shooting, handles, getting stronger before camp

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons cheers from the bunch during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Associated Press
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The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.

Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.

He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.

New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.

Report: Warriors sign JaVale McGee go make-good training camp contract

JaVale McGee
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JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.

He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.

But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.

I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.

Russell Westbrook laughs off question about Kevin Durant

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant #35 discuss play during the first half against the Los Angeles ClipperLos Angeles Kingsat Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.

But not right now. He remains silent.

This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.

https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js

In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.

Rudy Gay, Vlade Divac clear the air

Rudy Gay
AP Photo
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Rudy Gay expressed displeasure with how the Kings were handling trade rumors. Sacramento general manager Vlade Divac retorted that Gay had his phone number.

Apparently, Gay found it.

Sean Cunningham of ABC 10:

Following those comments, Gay told ABC10 on Thursday afternoon that he had since spoken with Divac.

“I have talked to Vlade,” Gay said from his Nike Skills Academy at Hardwood Palace in Rocklin. “I can’t say since Monday stuff has changed, but I just feel like we have a little bit of time to start changing things.”

Gay, who will be entering his 11th NBA season, has insisted he hasn’t demanded a trade and should he remain a member of the Kings by the time training camp opens in October, he says he’ll report and be ready to go.

“At this point in my career I just want to be happy,” said Gay. “I talked to Vlade and we’re trying to make that happen.”

Even if he hasn’t demanded a trade, it sure sounds like Gay would welcome one. I doubt the Kings would mind moving on, either.

But it takes another team to trade for Gay, and so far, one hasn’t emerged.

In the meantime, tensions appear to be eased. Open communication usually helps.