Dan Feldman

Maverick Carter: Playing in Los Angeles wouldn’t matter much for LeBron, winning does

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So, LeBron James to the Lakers?

That rumor persists for numerous reasons, including that large-market Los Angeles could help LeBron earn far more than he does with the Cavaliers in Cleveland.

But does it actually matter where LeBron plays?

LeBron’s manager Maverick Carter on The Rich Eisen Show:

These days, it doesn’t matter anymore. Think about it now. The Lakers and the Knicks have been bad – the Knicks for a very long time the Lakers for, I don’t know, since Kobe kind of aged out of being the best player or one of the best players in the league. And basketball is growing and doing as great as ever with teams in Oklahoma City, in Cleveland. These days, it doesn’t matter, because you can be known and be a star from anywhere – anywhere in the world. So, it doesn’t actually matter. I mean, could he sell a few more sneakers if he was in a gigantic market like Boston or Chicago or New York or L.A.? Maybe. But not as much as if he wins. What matters the most is if he wins. When you win, as an athlete, that matters the most.

What about LeBron’s forays into the entertainment industry. Wouldn’t playing Los Angeles help with those? Carter:

I understand people keep saying that and thinking that. But the reason it doesn’t make sense is because, if he does play in L.A. or he plays on the moon, he can only shoot movies for three months. It doesn’t matter. Even if he played in L.A. and wanted to be in a movie, he can’t shoot from basically September to June.

He could at least take more off-day meetings for his production company while playing in Los Angeles, right? Carter:

He also could do that, these days, from anywhere in the world, A. And, B, we’re doing fine without him living here and playing here. He has a home here in the offseason. He lives in L.A. in the offseason. Our company, we have 10 shows in deals. We have two shows with Netflix, a show with HBO. And none of them are starring him. He’s just the E.P. on them running the company, as the founder of the company with me. So, the company doesn’t need him to be here. And if he wants to act in movies, it doesn’t matter, because he only gets three months a year to do it anyway, no matter where he plays. And being your question about a meeting: He’s LeBron, Rich. People will go where he is. It actually works. If LeBron says, “I want to have a meeting” or someone wants to meet. And he’s like, “I’m in Detroit, and it’s 10 below,” people go, “Ah, we’ve got coats. We’ll be there.” People go where LeBron is. I’m just telling you.

LeBron to Detroit, confirmed.

Obviously, LeBron won’t actually sign with the Pistons next summer. (I think.) But we’re starving for clues about his free agency, and Carter just provided a ton. Read between the lines however you please, but if I were the Lakers or Clippers, I wouldn’t be encouraged by these comments.

Report: Zach LaVine signs sneaker deal worth up to $35 million over four years

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Zach LaVine didn’t get a contract extension from the Bulls.

But he’s in line to get paid even before hitting restricted free agency next summer.

Nick DePaula of ESPN:

Zach LaVine has agreed to terms with Adidas on a four-year endorsement deal that could be worth as much as $35 million, industry sources told ESPN on Thursday.

The deal is also structured in a way to reward LaVine, a two-time Slam Dunk Contest champion who averaged 18.9 points last season with the Timberwolves, should he break out as an All-Star level player once he returns from the injury.

“It’s a different contract than anything we’ve done recently,” a brand source said.

LaVine is the biggest name on the large-market Chicago Bulls, a two-time dunk-contest champion and someone who spent much of last season averaging 20 points per game. He should appeal to many casual fans.

But I’m very curious the minimum LaVine can earn from this deal. He’s largely a jump-shooter (albeit, a much-improved one) in the halfcourt. All his athleticism – subject to scrutiny as he still recovers from a torn ACL – didn’t go to enough use during games. His all-around contributions, particularly defensively, are lacking.

As a result, LaVine will need major improvements before he leads a team deep into the playoffs or becomes an All-Star. He’s just 22, so he has time to grow, but don’t underestimate how far he must go.

So, expect LaVine to get back into the dunk contest. He’s reaching the point in his career where many players – especially former contest champions – bow out, but it’s probably his best ticket to the exposure necessary to justify this deal.

Doc Rivers: J.J. Redick was ‘begging’ to return to Clippers; Redick: ‘I didn’t want to come back’

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Since leaving the Clippers, J.J. Redick and Chris Paul have both criticized the team’s culture.

So, Clippers coach Doc Rivers – who presided over the Paul-Redick era before losing his front-office title – is left to defend his team.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

Rivers has seen Paul’s remarks about the team’s culture. “Who controls the culture?” he asks. “The players. Always the players. And even with Chris’ comments, he thought about coming back. J.J. [Redick] was begging to come back.”

(Redick disagrees. “There was never any indication from my agent that I wanted to go back,” he says. “I didn’t beg to come back. I didn’t want to come back.”)

This might be a matter of timing. At one point, it appeared Redick would return to L.A. But soon after the season, it became clear he would depart.

But it might simply each side presenting its preferred narrative.

The Clippers want to attract future star free agents, so they need to defend their culture. But they also want to show they won’t disparage any future stars after they leave, so it’s important to maintain decent terms with Paul and Redick. Rivers is walking a narrow line, and he probably went too far with “begging.”

Nobody wants to be seen as desperate. Redick is proud, and so he one-upped Rivers by saying he didn’t want to return at all.

Whether borne out of genuine misunderstanding of the other side’s actions or deliberate mischaracterization, it’s fascinating to see the spin at work here.

Trail Blazers: Al-Farouq Aminu out 2-3 weeks

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The Trail Blazers were absolutely right to dump highly paid Allen Crabbe on Brooklyn while they had the chance.

But they were also going to miss Crabbe’s frontcourt floor-spacing complementing Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

Thankfully for Portland, starting power forward Al-Farouq Aminu has stepped up. Aminu has taken half shots this season from beyond the arc and made 43% of them (13-of-30). He also has played solid defense for a team trying to make strides on that end.

But now the Trail Blazers will miss Aminu, too.

Jason Quick of CSN Northwest:

Noah Vonleh, who just returned from his own injury, started in Portland’s win over the Lakers last night. He doesn’t nearly provide the floor balance Aminu does.

Caleb Swanigan and Zach Collins could also get bigger roles off the bench, but they’re playing like the rookies they are – Swanigan one who’s experiencing up and downs, Collins one who’s in completely over his head. They should get better with experience, but Portland might have to put more on their plates than desirable.

In what’s shaping up to be a stiff competition for the final playoff spots in the Western Conference, Aminu’s absence could loom large.

Isaiah Thomas: 76ers doing Jahlil Okafor wrong

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When the Celtics traded Isaiah Thomas to the Cavaliers after he played hurt and on a relatively low salary for Boston, many players felt he was done wrong.

Thomas is paying that support forward with Jahlil Okafor, who’s in the final year of his contract, out of the 76ers’ rotation and desperately wants them to trade him or buy him out.

Thomas:

The 76ers missed their optimal window to trade Okafor. They still might be asking for too much. Okafor seems to think they are.

But this is the peril of the NBA’s draft system. Except in rare circumstances, the team that drafts someone in the first round gains control of his salary and where he plays for four years. Philadelphia is exercising those rights for just three. Yet, even that feels like too much.

There’s not much Okafor can do except voice his discontent and hope that pressures the 76ers into a move. It helps to have a star make a rare interjection into an issue between another team and its player.

I doubt players will avoid Philadelphia as a result of Bryan Colangelo’s handling of this situation. They might want to hold a grudge, but whenever offered the best combination of money, playing time and winning, free agents usually come around.

Still, if the 76ers think their handling of Okafor reflects poorly among other players around the league, that could affect the team’s thinking. It’s easier for me to predict Philadelphia won’t feel a fallout from keeping Okafor too long than it is for Colangelo to withstand that threat. So, Thomas tweet nudges the 76ers ever closer toward freeing Okafor.