Dan Feldman

Report: Lakers, Pacers engaged in Paul George trade talks

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The Lakers were reportedly resisting trading for Paul George. Why would they surrender assets for someone with his sights set them in 2018 free agency, anyway?

But the Pacers have apparently drummed up enough of a trade market where the Lakers will at least discuss a deal.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Pacers are backed into a corner, whether they trade with the Lakers or any other team. Everyone believes George will sign with the Lakers in 2018 and is proposing trades accordingly.

George still has value as a rental to teams like the Cavaliers, who are ready to win now. That shouldn’t apply to the Lakers, though they could get impatient.

The Lakers would trade for George to protect against him going elsewhere and falling for his new team. They’d also block the (remote) possibility of George playing out the season in Indiana, making an All-NBA team then signing a lucrative designated-veteran-player contract to stay.

There’s risk in trading for George on an expiring contract. He could get to Los Angeles, hate it and leave in a year. See Dwight Howard.

But there’s more value in securing George’s Bird Rights (i.e., the ability to pay him more than anyone else next season), keeping him from a contender that might tempt him to re-sign and eliminating the threat of a designated-veteran-player deal with the Pacers.

The Lakers wouldn’t have to trade much for him. It’s a narrow market given George’s clear plan to get to Los Angeles anyway.

The Pacers would prefer to get something for him rather than losing him for nothing next year.

So, maybe there’s common ground. It’s at least worth exploring.

Report: Rockets offering James Harden contract extension that could be worth projected max of $168 million over four years

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The Rockets signed James Harden to a contract extension last year, which would usually preclude him from signing another extension this year. But the new Collective Bargaining Agreement includes a special provision for him and Russell Westbrook.

Houston apparently hopes to take advantage.

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

For the second consecutive season, the Rockets intend to offer Harden a contract extension long before he could hit free agency, a person will knowledge of the team’s plans said Tuesday. The individual spoke on the condition of anonymity because the team’s intentions have not been made public.

The Rockets “plan to extend James Harden at the first opportunity,” the individual said. “That is the plan.”

Harden is locked up for the next two years, at $28,299,399 and $30,421,854. An extension would kick in in 2019.

It could be worth a projected max of $168 million over four years. (The exact total wouldn’t be determined until 2019.) Presumably, the Rockets would give him the max. He’s their unquestioned franchise player, and they have treated him as such.

Houston and Harden could wait another year – again, he can’t become a free agent until 2019 – and sign an extension next year. Then, it could be for five years worth a projected max of $217 million. It’d have the same structure over the first four years as the extension he could sign this summer. It’d just have a fifth season tacked on (with a projected $49 million salary).

There’s plenty to weigh – security vs. flexibility. But the Rockets are going to give Harden the option of locking in again.

Rumor: Kyrie Irving telling other stars he might push for trade if LeBron James leaves Cavaliers

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Flash back to January 2014: Kyrie Irving was reportedly telling people he wanted to leave the Cavaliers.

A few months later, LeBron James returned and Irving’s world changed. There has been some rockiness, but LeBron carried Irving to basketball’s biggest stages, where Irving has earned a reputation as a big-game player. Irving won a title, and Cleveland will contend again next year.

But what about 2018, when LeBron could leave the Cavs (maybe for Lakers or Clippers)?

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

All-Star Kyrie Irving has been contacting some of his former Team USA teammates and letting them know that he might be willing to push for a trade, especially if he feels the Cavs’ run could end quickly with James able to opt out after next season.

Through back channels, Chicago would be one of the places that Irving would be interested to play.

It’s easy to see these conversations getting spun beyond the intent. It’s a short hop from a vague “Wouldn’t it be cool if we played together?” among friends to this report.

But Irving will be just 26 next year and under contract for another season. The Cavaliers likely want to make him centerpiece of their next era.

If Irving threatens to leave in 2019, when Kevin Love can also become a free agent, they might trade him. And Irving might do that.

It’s fair to wonder when and how far Cleveland falls. It could get ugly in a hurry.

But I wouldn’t assume Irving is already lining up hard contingencies if LeBron leaves – or that the Cleveland will accommodate Irving’s plan even if he makes one.

Judge denies request to block funding tied to Detroit arena

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DETROIT (AP) A federal judge has denied a request to block some public funding for Little Caesars Arena and the Detroit Pistons’ move from the suburbs.

U.S. District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith issued his decision late Monday, saying a requested injunction would cause “catastrophic damage” to Detroit.

The lawsuit says Michigan law prohibits spending school property tax revenue on the projects because a tax voters approved in 2012 was to be used exclusively for Detroit’s public schools. It said a vote from city residents was needed first.

Activist Robert Davis and D. Etta Wilcoxon, who is running for City Clerk, had sought to block the Detroit Downtown Development Authority from using the money.

The arena, which will be home to the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings and the NBA’s Pistons, opens this fall.

CEO: Timberwolves’ jersey ads will ‘change the way teams evaluate these types of deals’

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Timberwolves are getting into the jersey advertisement game with a Fitbit patch in a three-year deal.

The Timberwolves announced the marketing collaboration for the team’s first jersey patch on Tuesday. Fitbit also will be featured in the newly renovated Target Center, with the team exploring ways the wearable technology can help players, employees and fans track their health and fitness during practices, games and everyday activities.

Timberwolves CEO Ethan Casson said the team sees the partnership as more than a small patch in the corner of newly designed jerseys unveiled later this summer. The Timberwolves were among four other teams bidding for Fitbit’s business.

“This is going to change the way teams evaluate these types of deals and relationships going forward,” Casson said. “This is different than anything I’ve seen before.”

The Wolves plan to use Fitbit’s technology throughout the organization, including logging the new concession offerings at Target Center into the Fitbit food section to help fans make healthier choices at the games. The wearables will be used with the Iowa Wolves, the Des Moines-based development league team recently purchased by the Timberwolves, as a test for performance enhancement that might be incorporated with the NBA team. Areas of interest include sleep, recovery from workouts and nutrition.

“They weren’t just looking at this as a jersey sponsorship,” Fitbit chief marketing officer Tim Rosa said. “They were looking at it as an opportunity to tell a bigger story around innovation and health and wellness.”

Coach Tom Thibodeau is on board, Casson said.

Jersey patches are just starting to take hold in the NBA. Boston, Sacramento, Brooklyn, Philadelphia and Cleveland are among the teams to announce deals with various sponsors. The Wolves have been exploring potential deals for months.

They considered local companies and had conversations with several Chinese companies after John Jiang joined the team as the NBA’s first Chinese minority owner. In the end, they chose San Francisco-based Fitbit for its recognizable brand and the company’s ability to partner with the franchise on several health and wellness fronts.

“We think we’re going to evolve weekly with the types of things we’re thinking of doing and capable of doing,” Casson said. “We’re thrilled to be a part of it.”

Rosa said Duluth, Minnesota, ranked first on the company’s “Fittest Cities” list in 2017 while Minneapolis ranked second in 2016. Fitbit also has business relationships with several prominent Minnesota companies that do business with the Wolves, including UnitedHealth Group, Target, Best Buy and the Mayo Clinic, which partners with the Timberwolves on their practice facility.

The Iowa Wolves will wear a Fitbit jersey patch, and the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx will use the wearable technology. The Lynx feature the Mayo Clinic and Verizon on the front of their jerseys.

“The ability to work with a team and work on specific things around sleep or activities in the offseason, it’s pretty exciting,” Rosa said. “It’s a mutual benefit that a team has access to all of this plyometric data. There’s a lot of room for improvement and understanding your body and how to enhance performance.”