Dan Feldman

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 18:  Rajon Rondo #9 of the Sacramento Kings in action against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on November 18, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Report: Kings less willing to pay Rajon Rondo than you think

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Rajon Rondo outplayed his one-year, $9.5 million contract with the Kings – a deal that seemed exorbitant when signed.

But, after a miserable stint with the Mavericks, Rondo has rehabbed his value in Sacramento.

He’ll head into free agency under much more favorable conditions. He’s coming off a bounce-back season. The salary cap is skyrocketing.  It’s a weak point-guard class beyond Mike Conley.

How much will Rondo get?

A max contract? At least a couple NBA executives think he could.

If the bidding gets that high, the Kings might bow out.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

The latest scuttlebutt is that the Kings are prepared to cut bait with Rajon Rondo if the bidding for him gets beyond a certain threshold that is lower than we might imagine, given the Kings’ recent transaction history.

There’s a lot for Sacramento to consider.

Rondo’s resurgence came almost entirely offensively, where he was one of the NBA’s top distributors. His defense – a key element to his former star status – remains weak, and that’s unlikely to change. Rondo is 30. Do the Kings really want to invest big money in someone that age whose lack of a jumper forces him to rely so much on athleticism?

And how would they replace Rondo?

Darren Collison looked good starting before Rondo arrived. Sacramento could turn the keys back to him and spend the money it would have paid Rondo to upgrade the rest of the roster.

The Kings have the No. 8 pick of the draft, and the top two point guard prospects – Jamal Murray and Kris Dunn – will likely be off the board then. Any other point guard would be considered a reach, though I really like Wade Baldwin. Depending how workouts go, I wouldn’t rule out him warranting top-eight status.

And what about DeMarcus Cousins? Sacramento wants to forge a stronger relationship with him, and he has said how badly he wants Rondo to re-sign. They meshed well (though not always in good ways). How would Cousins respond to Rondo leaving?

The Kings will get more information by the time free agency begins. They’ll know whom they drafted and can talk to Cousins. Assessing Rondo’s value won’t become easy, but at least they’ll have more information.

By the way, if Rondo leaves Sacramento, I like him with the Grizzlies if Conley walks. Memphis would probably still need to continue trying to win now. With Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Tony Allen under contracted and a top-five-protected first-round pick owed to the Nuggets, there just isn’t much room to pivot into rebuilding. So, Rondo’s age would be less of a factor, and he could help the Grizzlies compete before they transition to their next era.

Warriors trick Luke Walton into believing Lakers lost first-round pick

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 13:  Interim head coach Luke Walton of the Golden State Warriors leads his team against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on January 13, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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Luke Walton will take over the Lakers after the Warriors’ season, so he – unlike the rest of his current organization – had a lot riding on last night’s lottery.

Would the Lakers land a top-two pick, allowing him to coach Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram? Or would they fall out of the top three, convey their pick to the 76ers and make Walton’s prospects much more dire?

Fortunately for Walton, the Lakers drew the No. 2 pick.

So, he could breathe easy, right?

Not immediately.

Bill Oram of The Orange County Register:

C’mon, man! The Warriors are down 1-0 to the Thunder. Doesn’t Walton already have enough on his mind?

Also, remember when some criticized the Lakers for allowing a culture where D'Angelo Russell and Nick Young engaged in a prank war? Good teams do this, too. They just don’t record the most devastating elements and post them online.

Report: 76ers ‘leaning heavily’ toward drafting Ben Simmons with No. 1 pick

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76ers general manager Bryan Colangelo called trading the No. 1 pick “highly unlikely.”

So, the Ben Simmons-Brandon Ingram debate moves to Philadelphia.

At least as much as it’s a debate.

Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:

The Philadelphia 76ers are leaning heavily toward taking Simmons on June 23, according to league sources

This would be the right choice.

Simmons is the premier prospect in this draft – a playmaking power forward with the size and leaping ability to score inside crash the glass. Are their questions about his drive? Does his outside shot need work? Yes and yes. But his talent is undeniable and outweighs those concerns.

Ingram is a fine consolation prize, but Simmons would be the best selection for any team drafting No. 1 – including the 76ers, who are already loaded with big men.

Simmons’ ideal position if power forward, which makes it even harder fit the young highly drafted bigs already in Philadelphia – Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid. The 76ers also have the rights to Dario Saric, whose style as a passing power forward loosely resembles Simmons’. But so what? They shouldn’t bypass the top prospect because he’s not ideal fit with this roster. A team that went 10-72 likely faces plenty of turnover.

Embiid and Saric have never played in the NBA. Okafor has looked one-dimensional so far, though he has at least impressed at that dimension (interior scoring). Noel took a step back this year, though perhaps that’s injury related.

You don’t pass up Simmons because of them.

Simmons might not like this – he reportedly prefers the Lakers – but those are the breaks. The NBA and players union collectively bargained a system where top first-year players don’t get to choose their employers.

Colangelo said Philadelphia planned to work out both Simmons and Ingram, so this isn’t necessarily a completely done deal. Simmons could try dissuading the 76ers by refusing to work out. But I’d still take him, and I think they would, too. He’s that good.

This would leave Ingram to No. 2, where the Lakers pick – if they don’t trade the selection. Ingram would fit well on the wing with a nice young core of D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle. Plus, Ingram’s low-paying rookie-scale contract wouldn’t eat much into the Lakers’ cap room. This could be an enticing team in a couple years – if they’re willing to wait that long.

Raptors break NBA record for Game 1 futility

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 17: Dwane Casey of the Toronto Raptors speaks to DeMar DeRozan #10 in the third quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 17, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
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The Raptors lost Game 1 last night.

Again.

Toronto’s loss to the Cavaliers was its eighth straight defeat to open a series. The Raptors are now 1-10 all-time in Game 1s, breaking a tie with the Timberwolves for worst Game 1 record among the NBA’s 30 franchises:

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This measure could punish teams for making the playoffs as a lower seed rather than missing the postseason entirely, because home teams have won 74% of Game 1s. Minnesota, for example, lost its first five Game 1s in franchise history – all on the road.

But the Raptors have no such excuse. Toronto is a stunningly bad 0-5 in home Game 1s, including losses to the Pacers and Heat this year.

Game 1 winners have won 79% of series. No wonder the Raptors hadn’t won a best-of-seven series before this season. Really, it’s remarkable they reached the conference finals after digging early holes the first two rounds.

In the process, Toronto has tied the 2013 Grizzlies, 1976 Suns and 1971 Bullets for most Game 1 losses in a single postseason (three).

If it’s any consolation, Toronto probably won’t break that record this year.

Maverick Carter indicates LeBron James’ Nike lifetime contract worth more than $1 billion

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James (23) celebrates against the Atlanta Hawks in the second half in Game 1 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Monday, May 2, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
AP Photo/Tony Dejak
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LeBron James signed a lifetime contract with Nike that was reportedly worth “significantly more than the $500 million that has been speculated.”

How much more?

LeBron’s manager, Maverick Carter, in a Q&A with Mark Anthony Green of GQ:

So you just negotiated an unprecedented lifetime contract for LeBron with Nike. What’s your secret to being a great negotiator?
You have to go into the room understanding a couple things. You have to know what you want. You have to know how to clearly articulate those things. You have to know what’s important to the other side and what they want. Be able to articulate those things, too. And then you have to be willing to not take everything. If you go into the negotiation like, I’m gonna get every dollar, every piece of real estate—I’m just gonna take this guy’s fucking pants off—you may be able to do that once, maybe twice, but after that, people aren’t going to want to do business with you. When you’re negotiating something like the Nike deal, it’s gonna last a lifetime, literally. The minute this negotiation’s over, we’re gonna work with these people every day. So you don’t want to leave them with a bad feeling.

How much was the deal for?
I can’t say.

Come on, Mav! Can you ballpark it?
What are people saying?

Kanye said a billion. So a billion.
[Maverick smiles and points one finger skyward.]

Holy shit.
Yeah. It’s a fantastic deal. Nike feels great about the deal. That’s the most important thing. As great as I feel, as great as LeBron feels—Nike feels fantastic about it. It’s the largest deal in the history of the company. Their hope is he makes even more. And our hope is that, too, obviously.

Whoa. That’s a lot of money.

LeBron is well on his way to following Michael Jordan as NBA player turned billionaire. Unfortunately for LeBron, buying an NBA team will cost much more than the $275 million Jordan paid for Charlotte.