Dan Feldman

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 14:  LeBron James #23 and Tristan Thompson #13 of the Cleveland Cavaliers speaks to the media after their 104 to 91 loss in overtime the Golden State Warriors during Game Five of the 2015 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 14, 2015 in Oakland, California. 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 Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Tristan Thompson on contract: ‘LeBron’s not my agent. I earned my money’

5 Comments

There were numerous reasons Tristan Thompson held leverage over the Cavaliers as a restricted free agent two years ago:

  • Thompson was coming into his own as a player. His defensive versatility was especially important as the NBA became more reliant on small ball, and his offensive rebounding was a dangerous weapon in that paradigm. In fact, with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love injured, Thompson was probably Cleveland’s second-best player during its playoff run to the Finals.
  • He was just 24. At that age, he projected to remain productive throughout his next contract.
  • New national TV contracts were set to kick in the following year and drastically raise the salary cap. Therefore, any deals signed in the old-money environment would look cheap overnight.
  • The capped-out Cavs had no mechanism to acquire a better replacement. Whatever Thompson was worth, it was a heck of a lot more than the mid-level exception. As long as actual cost was no object — and it apparently wasn’t — Thompson’s salary wouldn’t impede salary-cap flexibility.
  • Thompson had an aggressive agent who had just guided Eric Bledsoe through a lengthy restricted free agency to a lucrative contract with the Suns the year before. The agent set an early standard of a max or near-max contract, threatened with Thompson signing the qualifying offer and promised to leave Cleveland the following year if he did and spread word of teams waiting to offer Thompson the max as an unrestricted free agent.
  • Oh, and that agent, Rich Paul, also represented LeBron James.

The result: Thompson signed a five-year, $82 million contract that was widely credited to LeBron.

Thompson, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

“I earned my money,” Thompson told ESPN of his five-year, $82 million extension he signed in 2015. “LeBron’s not my agent. I earned my money doing what I do; you can ask anyone around the league. I opened doors for other guys. It’s a business and you get paid what the market value is for you. I got my money and opened up doors for other guys that play hard and do the little things.”

How much influence did LeBron have on Thompson’s deal? LeBron repeatedly applied public pressure.

But one presumed threat — LeBron, who was also a free agent, waiting to sign until the Cavs took care of Thompson — never came to fruition. LeBron re-signed well before Thompson.

One report even said the Cavaliers didn’t fear LeBron leaving over Thompson’s contract, though it’s up for debate how much they were just trying to regain leverage.

We can never know LeBron’s exact involvement, because the effect might have been indirect. The Cavs obviously wanted to please LeBron and on some level, maybe even explicitly, could have viewed Thompson’s deal as a factor.

Either way, Thompson is getting paid handsomely on a contract that has become good value for Cleveland as the salary cap skyrocketed. Thompson has become the Cavaliers’ starting center, and $16.4 million is fair for a starting center.

But why is Thompson minimizing LeBron’s importance?

For one, players measure themselves by their contracts. Sure, making more money is nice. But it’s also a status symbol around the league, and Thompson doesn’t want his status undermined by the perception he didn’t earn his deal.

That’s why Thompson goes a step further and declares himself a player who opened doors for others — which would increase his prestige even further. It’s a dubious claim, though Thompson’s negotiations apparently influenced Draymond Green‘s the same year. At one point, it appeared Thompson and Cleveland neared a five-year, $80 million deal. With that as a baseline, Green reportedly agreed to a five-year, $82 million contract with the Warriors. Then, Thompson had his negotiations drag on for months. But Green probably could’ve gotten a max deal if he pushed for one. So, it’s tough to credit Thompson much here — or find other players who were paid more as a result of his success.

Another reason Thompson might be loathe to credit LeBron: LeBron implicitly besmirched Thompson by calling the Cavs top-heavy with himself, Irving and Love. How do you think that sat with Thompson?

Report: Warriors waiving Anderson Varejao, signing Briante Weber

Golden State Warriors' Anderson Varejao (18) poses with a cutout with his likeness during NBA basketball media day Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
4 Comments

Anderson Varejao generated discussion because he played for both the Cavaliers and Warriors — who met in the 2016 NBA Finals — last season. Even though he lost with Golden State, Cleveland still offered him a championship ring.

But that storyline distracted from another reality: The 34-year-old Varejao is no longer a useful NBA player.

The Warriors have apparently figured that out, and they’ll swap Varejao for Briante Weber.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

With Zaza Pachulia and David West both sidelined by injury, Golden State is entrusting JaVale McGee (gulp) and Kevon Looney to handle center duties. But Shaun Livingston is also banged up, and Weber provides depth behind Stephen Curry.

Weber played for the Grizzlies and Heat last year. He’s not a refined playmaker, but he makes up for that with feisty defense.

Know who will be watching this move closely? LeBron James. Not only did they drop LeBron’s friend in Varejao, the Warriors — the team LeBron knows is the biggest threat to him winning another title — added a solid point guard as the Cavaliers bide their time despite LeBron’s repeated demands to add another point guard. When Cleveland eventually signs a point guard, there will be pressure on him to outperform Weber — and that’s not such an easy bar too clear.

NBA GM: I wake up every day hoping rival trades for DeMarcus Cousins

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 27:  DeMarcus Cousins #15 of the Sacramento Kings reacts after mising a shot at the end of regulation during the game against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on January 27, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  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
11 Comments

DeMarcus Cousins is an exceptional talent trapped on a bad team – a combination that often leads to a trade.

But Cousins doesn’t appear to be leaving the Kings anytime soon.

Why?

1. The NBA’s new veteran-designated-player rule will allow Sacramento, and only Sacramento, to offer Cousins a five-year contract extension projected to be worth $219 million. Cousins reportedly plans to accept that deal when offered. If another team trades for Cousins, its max offer for re-signing Cousins projects to be $188 million over five years – an amount low enough that Cousins could walk in free agency. Simply, the designated-player tag makes Cousins more valuable to the Kings that he would be to any other team.

2. Sacramento owner Vivek Ranadive wants to keep Cousins. Whether or not that’s the rational choice (it is, due to No. 1), the owner’s directive rules.

3.  Other teams are hesitant to deal with Cousins’ attitude.

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN – in a incredibly reported piece on Cousins and the Kings – digs deeper into the third reason.

Arnovitz:

One general manager says he wakes up every day hoping one of his rivals trades for Cousins. Another says “No f—ing way” when asked whether he’d ever consider dealing for him.

Why? Cousins is so talented.

Arnovitz provides an example:

IT’S JANUARY 2015, a few weeks after Malone’s firing, and new coach Corbin is presiding over a film session. The team has fallen off a cliff in recent games, and Corbin has cued up a selection of video clips of the team’s defensive errors. Much of Corbin’s attention is focused on the Kings’ porous half-court defense, and Cousins is receiving heavy billing. After a few short minutes, Cousins jumps up.

“Why don’t we play film of all of this motherf—er’s mistakes?” Cousins shouts to the room, according to a then-teammate, pointing at Corbin. Corbin tries to explain that there’s no intent to single out any one player’s mistakes. Their recent performances, he says, have been teamwide failures. But Cousins is inconsolable. “Show ’em!”

Teammates don’t intervene. Corbin again urges Cousins to calm down. Cousins instead walks out of the film room and doesn’t return. When asked about the episode nearly two years later, Cousins confirms it — as well as his regular insubordination toward Corbin in practices, huddles and meetings.

“I feel bad for Ty Corbin,” Cousins says today about the interim coach who would compile a 7-21 record before being replaced. “We all knew the situation he was put in. That was just a frustrating period for everyone, to start the season the way we did. We finally were on the right path. I truly believe we would have been a playoff team. I was in a bad place. It was never an issue between me and Ty Corbin. He’s a great guy who was put in the worst situation possible — the worst.”

It’s good that Cousins can reflect on that incident, but it was only one of many. Arnovitz has much more, and I highly recommend reading his piece in full.

There are plenty of fair reasons to be wary of trading for Cousins, but his production demands close monitoring.  By most accounts, Cousins had been less destructive this year. It wouldn’t take much to justify the risk of trading for him. His upside is so high.

I suspect, if the Kings ever made him available, teams would line up to make offers — even if a few executives talk a big game about avoiding him now.

Report: Cavaliers lost $40 million last season

9 Comments

LeBron James is reportedly frustrated that Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, after promising unconditional spending to lure back LeBron in 2014, is keeping costs down this season.

The simplest retort: The Cavs have spent more than any other team.

Cleveland has the NBA’s highest payroll for the second straight season and is on track to pay the luxury tax for the third straight year. This season, the outlay on players is in line to be $154,616,543 –$127,519,873 in salary and $27,096,670 in luxury tax.

In addition to paying Tyronn Lue to coach, the Cavaliers are also reportedly still paying fired coaches Mike Brown and David Blatt.

Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes:

Richard Hamilton: When I played for Bulls, another coach warned me about Randy Brown

Indiana Pacers v Chicago Bulls
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jimmy Butler and other Bulls players are reportedly concerned about coaches, Randy Brown in particular, “spying” on them for the front office.

Richard Hamilton, who played for Chicago from 2011-13, sheds light on the dynamic.

Hamilton, via CBSSports.com:

I know that, me being in Chicago, me being the first year there and being in film session and one of the coaches, assistant coaches, spits out, “Randy has nothing to do with this team. He doesn’t need to be around the players.” Looked at every man that was in that film session and pretty much told them, “Hey, don’t listen to him. When he comes and talks to you, don’t listen to him.” And for me, as a veteran guy just coming from Detroit, I was like, “What is going on around here?” Because every conversation I had with Randy was always good, was always love. So it’s kind of like a situation where, man, I don’t know what’s going on between management and the coaches.

Brown has held a variety of roles with the Bulls — player, director of player development, special assistant to the general manager (his job when Hamilton was in Chicago), assistant general manager and now assistant coach.

Again, Brown or any coach talking to management about what he observes is not necessarily “spying.” It’s often productive collaboration.

This would be a problem only if a coach promises a player his words will be kept in confidence and then violates that trust. Is anyone alleging that with Brown?

There was a clear rift between general manager Gar Forman and Tom Thibodeau, who coached the Bulls when Hamilton was there, and this is another example of that fracture.

An assistant coach badmouthing an executive like that isn’t healthy. A lingering distrust felt by players isn’t healthy.

However Brown actually operates, the Bulls must address the culture that makes him a target.