Report: Cavaliers made trades without long-term commitment from LeBron James

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The Cavaliers have been trying to get LeBron James to commit to Cleveland long-term, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert seemingly particularly wary of going all-in this season if LeBron might leave in free agency this summer. But LeBron pledged to stay only the rest of the season, no longer.

Yesterday, the Cavaliers traded for George Hill, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson. In those deals, Cleveland:

  • Increased spending this season by $9,606,233 ($582,337 in prorated salary, $6,923,896 in increased luxury tax, $2,100,000 in cash sent to the Kings and Jazz) – plus the cost of additional players with two cleared roster spots, which be taxed at 425% of their salaries
  • Increased its 2018-19 payroll by $15,455,332 – not counting paying Hood in restricted free agency or the luxury tax
  • Increased its 2019-20 payroll by $6,621,967
  • Surrendered its own 2018 first-round pick, a 2020 second-rounder and swap rights on its 2024 second-rounder with Utah

That’s significant long-term cost. Did it earn the Cavaliers a pledge from LeBron?

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

The Cavs did not get a commitment from LeBron James that he will stay past this season before executing today’s trade, sources said.

This is unsurprising. LeBron values his leverage, and he won’t relinquish it this easily. He can opt out next summer, and once again, Cleveland will be forced to please him.

Yesterday’s trades could help. They revitalize what had increasingly become a toxic environment. They make the roster better-equipped to win now. And they remind LeBron management is committed to winning.

But LeBron also views big spending as an expectation, not a favor. He doesn’t seem inclined to give Gilbert the benefit of the doubt on anything. However LeBron feels today about the trades will dissipate, and his last game experience heading into the offseason will still likely be a playoff loss.

For four years, LeBron and Gilbert have formed a tense, prosperous partnership that has resulted in three straight trips to the NBA Finals and a championship. LeBron has delivered on the floor and drawn attention to the Cavs. Gilbert opened his checkbook in a major way, and that continued yesterday.

But thanks to his repeated short-term contracts and no-shortage of teams eager to court him, LeBron still has leverage.

The Cavaliers hold some cards, too. They didn’t trade the Nets pick, the most valuable chip in a potential post-LeBron rebuild. Or that pick could be used in a win-now trade this summer to woo LeBron.

No matter what steps were taken yesterday, the effort of convincing LeBron that Cleveland is the right place for him never ends. He has made sure of that.

PBT Extra: Disciplined Celtics highlight bad habits of Milwaukee Bucks

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Giannis Antetokounmpo has been every bit the top five NBA player in the postseason — 32.5 points per game on 63.2 percent shooting, plus with 11 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game.

Yet the Bucks are down 0-2 to Boston.

The Celtics have had a strong series from Al Horford and Terry Rozier, but the real difference is in the discipline this team has shown all season — Boston knows who it is. Clearly, Milwaukee does not. They turn the ball over too much and make too many mistakes.

I get into all of that in this PBT Extra, and I wonder if that’s something the Bucks can really turn around mid-playoffs.

Ettore Messina to coach Spurs in Game 3 following death of Gregg Popovich’s wife

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin, died yesterday.

That sad news was felt throughout the NBA, and it obviously affects San Antonio most closely. That includes for tonight’s Game 3 against the Warriors.

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:

Ettore Messina was a longtime head coach in Europe. The Spurs lead assistant also took over for a few regular-season games Popovich missed. So, making – rather than advising – coaching decisions won’t be a brand new challenge to Messina.

But down 2-0 to defending-champion Golden State is a tough place to make an NBA playoff debut.

On the bright side, there will be no pressure. Not only has San Antonio been outclassed the first two games of the series, focus is rightly on the Popovich family. A win would be a pleasant surprise and help Messina – who’s up for the Hornets job – in his pursuit of a head-coaching position. A loss would be quickly forgotten with more important matters at hand.

To that end, hopefully the time away allows Popovich the space he needs to grieve. That matters far more than a basketball game.

Report: Knicks to interview Kenny Smith for head-coaching job

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The Knicks are casting a wide net in their coaching search.

It’ll apparently include a familiar, though surprising, name.

ESPN:

TNT analyst Kenny Smith will interview for the New York Knicks’ head-coaching job on Friday, a source told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.

A quality organization, the Rockets, interviewed Smith (in 2016, before hiring Mike D’Antoni). So, this isn’t proof of the Knicks’ oddball thinking. (There are plenty of better examples, if you wish).

Steve Kerr opened the door for former players to go straight from TV to being an NBA head coach without having any coaching experience. He’s been a smash hit with the Warriors.

But Kerr was also the Suns’ general manager before Golden State hired him. Smith has no front-office experience.

So, it’s tough to judge Smith, whose role on television is more to entertain than inform (though he does both). He’ll have to really wow in his interview to get the job.

But at least he has that opportunity.

Pacers coach Nate McMillan slips and falls while arguing call (video)

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Nate McMillan slipped up in his handling of Victor Oladipo‘s early fouls during the Pacers’ Game 2 loss to the Cavaliers last night.

Then, the Indiana coach literally slipped while arguing that LeBron James should have been called for offensively fouling Lance Stephenson.