Dan Feldman

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Report: With 2018 hopes fading, Lakers might aim for 2019 free-agency splash


The Lakers have been building to chase two stars this summer. The biggest names tied to that plan:

So, where does that leave the Lakers?

Ramona Shelburne and  Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

As the Los Angeles Lakers become more realistic about the franchise’s chances of snaring superstars in the free agent class of 2018, the front office is increasingly looking through a longer lens in its team building process, league sources told ESPN.

The Lakers aren’t abandoning a summer pursuit of stars, but rather recalibrating on the possibility of a 2019 class that could include San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, Golden State’s Klay Thompson and Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler, league sources told ESPN.

This is just the Lakers posturing and spinning as they lose battles. They haven’t given up on the war, but it’s clear the fight is tougher than they anticipated.

Of course, the Lakers still want to add a star or two this summer. No team would wait an additional year if not necessary. A key step in that process is shedding Luol Deng‘s and maybe Jordan Clarkson‘s contracts. Letting Julius Randle walk – or preemptively trading him now – is also imperative. How do the Lakers maximize their return for Randle and Clarkson and minimize the cost of dumping Deng? Convincing teams they’re not desperate to make a splash this summer and are willing to wait until 2019.

On one hand, waiting would work. The Lakers can keep building with Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Larry Nance Jr. and Josh Hart. Of that group, only Nance’s cheap rookie-scale contract will expire by 2019 – and his cap hold ($6,817,172) will be low that summer. Each season the Lakers pay Deng and Clarkson, the easier it becomes to trade them.

On the other hand, waiting until 2019 will make it tricky to handle Randle, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Brook Lopez in free agency this summer. The Lakers shouldn’t commit to multi-year deals if they’re prioritizing 2019, but they also need to win in the interim to impress 2019 free agents. It’s tough to add as much talent on expiring and one-year contracts as this year’s Lakers did.

And how long until Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson and Jimmy Butler fall through as targets? He’s not there yet, but Magic Johnson is moving one step closer to becoming like Jim Buss.

Report: Cavaliers facing ‘adversarial situation’ between LeBron James and Dan Gilbert

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In some ways, the Cavaliers still haven’t gotten over July 8, 2010.

In infamous moments for both, LeBron James left Cleveland with The Decision, and the Cavs owner responded with his letter. Gilbert held a grudge for years, and LeBron didn’t seem to get over it, either.

Yet, they partnered again in 2014.

LeBron wanted to play in his native Northeast Ohio, bring a championship to Cleveland and add to and market his legacy with a homecoming. To Gilbert, LeBron was – by far – the best ticket to winning, revenue and relevance. The owner reportedly pledged to spend unconditionally for LeBron. They didn’t have to like each other, but they could help each other.

And it worked.

The Cavaliers won the 2016 title, in the middle of three straight NBA Finals appearances. Their payroll has soared over the rest of the league, Gilbert spending big on LeBron’s supporting cast. For the last three years, both LeBron and Gilbert got practically everything they wanted out of this arrangement.

But the cracks are beginning to show.

The third-place Cavs (30-21) are closer to ninth in the East than second. Their defense is atrocious, and the roster looks worn down. They want LeBron – who can opt out this summer – to commit long-term, but he won’t. In turn, Cleveland is reportedly extremely reluctant to trade the Nets pick. LeBron is reportedly frustrated by Paul George and Eric Bledsoe getting traded elsewhere.

These issues snowball, and it seems the Cavaliers are facing a boulder of a problem now.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

But the Cleveland Cavaliers are out of time. It’s preposterous to say that in February for a team with a history of turning things around and doing it when they have to. However, they are in a preposterous situation.

They aren’t just looking at losing this season, but they are looking at losing LeBron James. If tomorrow were the beginning of free agency, there’s a good chance that would be the case.’

This is all a whirlwind around LeBron James vs. the Cavs’ front office, which is to say it’s about James vs. owner Dan Gilbert.

And the adversarial situation grows. And the team plays worse. And the pressure tightens. And the clock runs.

And the Cavs are culpable for allowing the trust and the relationship with management to crack. The Cavs know crisis better than anyone — they’ve been immersed in it on and off for four years.

But this is a different situation. Everyone can feel it.

Time is running out on their chances to change the roster. Even if it’s just to change the air in the locker room, time is running out.

Will Burge:

As we’ve seen, it’s never too late for LeBron and Gilbert to find common ground. Winning cures all ills, and another championship run would erase a lot of damage.

But how likely is that if Cleveland is already bracing for a post-LeBron rebuild – especially in a world where the Warriors exist? They leave so little margin for error, especially considering only a title might satisfy LeBron.

There are definitely agendas behind these reports – from the more grounded (Windhorst’s) to the more sensational (Burge’s). But the underlying picture is emerging: Unless something changes soon – less likely considering the egos and stubbornness involved – the Cavs are headed toward a breaking point.

Paul George touts ‘brotherhood’ with Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony

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Paul George said Russell Westbrook advocating so vigorously for George as an All-Star made George’s impending free agency decision easier.

My inference: George was already leaning toward re-signing with the Thunder. If he were leaning the other way, his appreciation for Westbrook’s comments would have made the decision harder.

Still, it’s always possible George got carried away in the moment or I’m misinterpreting him. But these latest comments only reinforce the idea George will likely sign with Oklahoma City this summer despite persistent rumors about his hometown Lakers that really gained steam while he was with the Pacers.

George, via ESPN:

I obviously would have loved to go home. That was ideal when it was that time.

But now, being here and playing alongside Russ, playing alongside Melo, I’ve built a real brotherhood with those guys. If we’re here right now [holds hand at chest level], then where can we be next year [hold hand at eye level]? Where can we be the year after that [holds hand above head]?

Of course, L.A. is home. So, that’s always going to draw the attention.

But we’ll see. I won’t rule anything out. But I’m definitely happy where I’m at. I like where we’re going, and I want to see how this unfolds.

It still depends how the Thunder finish the season. They have plenty of time to build their case, for better or worse.

But the more George talks about free agency, the more he sounds like someone planning to stay in Oklahoma City.

Report: NBA won’t punish Steve Kerr for deleted James Harden/officiating tweet

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The Steve Kerr-James Harden saga took a turn Thursday, when Warriors coach Steve Kerr replied to this NBA tweet:

Kerr’s tweet was quickly deleted – but not before someone screenshotted it:

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

“I thought it was a direct message,” Kerr said. “My new iPhone is killing me.”

According to a source with knowledge of the situation, since Kerr’s message was intended to be private, the league didn’t see a reason to issue a fine. Kerr said he’s trying to figure out the new iPhone 10 and realized his tweet was public soon after publishing.

“A friend DM’d me and said what do you think about this clip, and I responded to him,” Kerr said. “I hit send, and I was like, ‘Oh no.’ I went right over to [assistant coach] Chris DeMarco because I have no idea how to delete a tweet. I rarely even send a tweet, let alone delete one, so I gave it to DeMarco. He deletes it after maybe thirty seconds, and I go, ‘What do you think? Am I going to get away with it?’ And he goes, ‘Hell no.’

“Unfortunately, it wasn’t anything too damning.”

Not too damning? Kerr called the NBA promoting a highlight of a rival player an “embarrassment.” That’s a shot at both Harden – who excels at these legal, though dubious-looking moves – and the league. Players have been fined for saying less.

The message to any player or coach who wants to publicly criticize officials after the game: Tweet then delete the gripe. That’ll get your point out and, based on this precedent, prevent you from getting fined. Call it the accidental tweet on purpose.

Report: Willy Hernangomez requests trade from Knicks

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Knicks center Willy Hernangomez has not hidden his displeasure with his lack of playing time.

Now, he’s going a step further.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Representatives for New York Knicks center Willy Hernangomez requested for him to be traded ahead of Thursday’s deadline, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Hernangomez’s representatives informed Knicks officials of the trade request in recent days, league sources said, seeking a team in which he can continue his development as a young NBA center.

The Knicks don’t necessarily have to trade Hernangomez to appease him. They could clear a rotation spot for him in New York by dealing Enes Kanter or, more likely, Kyle O'Quinn.

The 23-year-old Hernangomez, who made the All-Rookie first team last season, is four years younger than O’Quinn. Hernangomez is locked up for the next two seasons at the minimum (unguaranteed in 2018-19). O’Quinn, who has a $4,256,250 player option for next season. On a team professing to be rebuilding, Hernangomez should be the priority.

That said, it matters what each player would return in a trade. The Knicks shouldn’t pick between their centers in a vacuum.

But, by now, they should have an idea of the market. This situation has been brewing all season. It shouldn’t take a specific trade request from Hernangomez for New York to act.