LeBron James says he’d want Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan as his 3-on-3 teammates

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LeBron James knows who his dream teammates would be in a 3-on-3 competition at the 2020 Olympics – Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson.

Jordan and Johnson’s names came to James without any hesitation when asked by The Associated Press which past greats he would like to play with. The Cavaliers star was a bit more reserved when he came to picking present day players.

“I don’t know, I have to think about it,” James said.

Not that James – or Magic or Michael – is participating.

James didn’t think he would consider playing in the new Olympic event in the Tokyo Games, but is happy it was added.

“It’s great for basketball,” he said. “For us to be able to add another category to the Olympics, another basketball category, I think it’s pretty great. I haven’t seen the full layout of how they plan on executing it … are they going to use NBA guys, are they going to use college guys. I’m not quite sure.

“I’m not very good in a 3-on-3 thing. I’m more of a 5-on-5 guy. I stay out of the 1-on-1 matchups during our practice, the 2-on-2 and the 3-on-3s. So probably not. I probably won’t be a part of the 3-on-3 matchup.”

The new Olympic event was added Friday by the International Olympic Committee. There will be eight men’s teams and eight women’s teams competing. As far as what teams are selected and how teams qualify, that’s still unclear.

“They don’t want just the basketball powers to compete in 3-on-3,” said USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley. “FIBA will get together and figure out how teams will qualify. They will definitely want to reward countries that have been doing a lot of 3-on-3 activities.”

The U.S. has been pushing 3-on-3 over the past few years and held a national tournament last month. The winners will head to the World Cup in France later this month.

“The last few years, we have made a major push in 3-on-3 basketball with our nationwide Dew NBA 3X tour and several international 3-on-3 competitions. The Olympic stage will provide these elite athletes with the opportunity to further demonstrate their talents,” NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum said.

It’s also unclear if the NBA will even allow its players to compete, which is just fine with Draymond Green.

“I grew up playing street ball so to have 3-on-3 a part of the Olympics I think it’s also something guys can win that are not pro athletes,” The Golden State Warriors forward said. “So I think that could be really good. You see in these other sports where they go compete in the Olympics but they have regular day jobs. I think that can be like that for 3-on-3. So I think that can be great.”

While the new event may not have NBA guys competing, count Breanna Stewart as one WNBA player who would love the chance to play in both basketball events if possible.

“Sure, I’d love to do it,” said Stewart, who won her first Olympic gold medal at the Rio Games. “Whenever I can put on a USA Basketball jersey … I’d be happy to.”

The U.S. has never won a men’s gold medal while playing in the 3-on-3 World Cup, which began in 2012. Serbia has won the title twice and Qatar was the champion in 2014. The Americans won the silver in 2016 after finishing 14th in 2014.

The women won gold medals in 2012 and 2014 before settling for the bronze in 2016.

“Definitely I would play in it again if offered the opportunity,” said Bria Hartley, who was part of the first title team in 2012, pairing with fellow WNBA players Chiney Ogwumike, Skylar Diggins and Ann Strother. “It was so much fun and it’s so fast-paced.”

The rules are made for up-tempo competition .

With one 10-minute period, the 3-on-3 is a lot quicker than its 5-on-5 counterpart. A game can end even sooner if a team scores 21 points in less than 10 minutes. If the game is tied after 10 minutes, it goes into overtime with the first team scoring two points in OT wins. Those rules make a big difference in limiting the Americans’ depth, which they have used to overwhelm opponents in traditional Olympic basketball games.

AP Sports Writers Janie McCauley and Josh Dubow contributed to this story from Oakland, California

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Paul George-Gordon Hayward-Celtics rumor doesn’t add up

AP Photo/George Frey
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Paul George reportedly wants to play with Gordon Hayward. George is also reportedly willing to join his desired team (universally accepted to be the Lakers) by means that don’t guarantee the highest salary.

Could the Celtics – who are pursuing Hayward in free agency – leverage those conditions into getting George?

Adam Kauffman of 98.5 The Sports Hub:

I don’t what George would do, but it’d be a MAJOR financial disadvantage to go this route.

There a couple ways it could happen – George getting extended-and-trade or George getting traded then signing an extension six months later. The latter would allow George to earn more than the former, but even if he pledged to sign an extension, would the Celtics trade for him knowing he’d have six months to change his mind if he doesn’t like Boston as much as anticipated?

There’s a bigger issue, anyway. Both extension routes would leave George earning far less than simply letting his contract expire then signing a new deal, either with his incumbent team or a new one.

Here’s a representation of how much George could earn by:

  • Letting his contract expire and re-signing (green)
  • Letting his contract expire and signing elsewhere (purple)
  • Getting traded and signing an extension six months later (gray)
  • Signing an extend-and-trade (yellow)

image

Expire & re-sign Expire & leave Trade, extend later Extend-and-trade
2018-19 $30.6 million $30.6 million $23,410,750 $23,410,750
2019-20 $33.0 million $32.1 million $25,283,610 $24,581,287
2020-21 $35.5 million $33.7 million $27,156,470 $25,751,825
2021-22 $37.9 million $35.2 million $29,029,330
2022-23 $40.4 million
Total $177.5 million $131.6 million $104,880,158 $73,743,861

Firm numbers are used when it’s just a calculation based on George’s current contract. When necessary to project the 2018-19 salary cap, I rounded.

The Celtics could theoretically renegotiate-and-extend, but that would require cap room that almost certainly wouldn’t exist after signing Hayward.

Simply, it’s next to impossible to see this happening. It’d be too costly to George.

Dwyane Wade on why he exercised his player option: ’24 million reasons’

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Dwyane Wade said he wanted to see the Bulls’ direction – winning now with Jimmy Butler or rebuilding? – before deciding on his $23.8 million player option for next season.

While Chicago was actively shopping Butler (before eventually trading him to the Timberwolves), Wade opted in, anyway.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

This is most real answer answer you’ll ever see. Props to Wade for his directness.

This also speaks to the unlikelihood of him accepting a buyout, no matter how poorly he fits with the rebuilding Bulls now – though maybe he’d accept a small pay cut to choose another team.

Medically risky prospects bring intrigue to 2017 NBA draft

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
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ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla dubbed Indiana forward O.G. Anunoby, who was slipping through the first round, a “sexy blogger pick.”

While I appreciate the compliment, Fraschilla was also right about another point: Those analyzing the draft for websites clearly valued Anunoby more than NBA teams. Fraschilla cited Anunoby’s limited offense, but it’s hard to get past Anunoby’s knee injury as a primary reason he fell to the Raptors at No. 23.

The 76ers adjusted us to the idea of picking an injured player high in the draft, with Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid in recent years. Even though Ben Simmons was healthy when picked, a later injury that cost him his entire rookie year conditioned us to the idea that sometimes top rookies don’t begin their pro careers ready to play.

But the 2017 NBA draft pushed back against that as a new norm. Most of the biggest tumblers on my board had injury concerns, from where I ranked them to where the went:

  • 12. O.G. Anunoby, SF, Indiana – No. 23, Raptors
  • 13. Harry Giles, PF, Duke – No. 20, Kings
  • 18. Isaiah Hartenstein, PF, Zalgiris – No. 43, Rockets
  • 19. Ike Anigbogu, C, UCLA – No. 47, Pacers

Anunoby had the aforementioned knee injury that even he, trying to paint himself in the most favorable light, said would cause him to miss some of the upcoming season. The strength of his game is a defensive versatility that would be undermined by a decline in athleticism.

Giles looked like a potential No. 1 pick in high school until three knee surgeries in three years derailed him. He was limited at Duke as a freshman, though reportedly acquitted himself in pre-draft workouts.

Hartenstein’s and Anigbogu’s medical issues were less widely know, but teams were apparently concerned.

Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress:

https://twitter.com/DraftExpress/status/878094857037676544

https://twitter.com/DraftExpress/status/878099339012210688

The 7-foot-1 Hartenstein is big enough to put a heavy load on his back. Just 19, he has nice vision as a passer and a developing outside shot that could allow him to spend more time on the perimeter and better take advantage of his passing.

Anigbogu was the youngest player drafted. He’s big and strong and mobile and throws his body around like a wrecking ball. He must develop better awareness and maybe even some ball skills, but there’s a path toward productivity.

Will these players blossom as hoped?

As I wrote when ranking Anunoby and Giles 12th and 13th before the draft, “I’m somewhat shooting in the dark” and “I’m mostly guessing here.”

This is the disconnect between the public perception of these players’ draft stocks and where they’re actually selected. We don’t have access to their medical records like teams do. We’re operating with far less information.

Still, it’s not as if teams always know how to interpret medical testing. Even with more information, this is hard.

I’m confident Anunoby, Giles, Hartenstein and Anigbogu would have gotten drafted higher with clean bills of health. So, this is an opportunity for the teams that drafted them. If the players stay healthy, they provide excellent value.

It’s obviously also a risk. If the player can’t get healthy, his value could quickly approach nil.

There are no certainties in the draft, but these four players present especially wide ranges of outcomes, which makes them among the more exciting picks to track in the years ahead.

Vlade Divac: Kings would have drafted De’Aaron Fox No. 1

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I sense a pattern.

Like Celtics president Danny Ainge saying Boston would’ve drafted No. 3 pick Jayson Tatum No. 1 if it kept the top pick, Kings president Vlade Divac said Sacramento would’ve taken No. 5 pick De'Aaron Fox No. 1 if it had the top pick.

Divac, via James Ham of NBC Sports California:

“Screaming,” Divac said about the reaction in the room to Fox falling in their lap. “It was a guy that we all loved and in some way, if we had the number 1 pick, he would’ve been our guy.”
“De’Aaron is our future,” Divac added.

The Kings are getting a lot of credit for drafting well. Maybe it’s a good thing they didn’t get the No. 1 pick, because it would have been foolish to pass on Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball (and others) for Fox. (The real punchline: Sacramento couldn’t have won the lottery due to Divac’s dumb salary dump with the 76ers giving Philadelphia the ability to swap picks.)

I don’t believe the Kings would’ve actually taken Fox No. 1. This sounds like Divac embellishing, which can be no big deal. It also puts outsized expectations on Fox, for better or worse.