Dan Feldman

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 10:  Head coach Tyronn Lue of the Cleveland Cavaliers talks to LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of the 2016 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 10, 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 Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue apologizes to Memphis fans for resting LeBron James, defends decision


By sitting LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love for Wednesday’s game at the Grizzlies, the Cavaliers created a small firestorm. It seems any of the stars – especially LeBron – could have played, but rest took priority.

That didn’t go over well with old-school observers and fans in Memphis.

Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue addressed one of those groups.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“I’m sorry to the fans who have to go through this because you get a chance to see LeBron, Kyrie and Kevin one time a year,” Lue said. “I understand that, but it had nothing to do with the decision.”

“Of course you want to see LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love play,” Lue said. “But we have 11 other professionals in the locker room that are also professional players and will also give you everything they got. So hopefully they will give you a good game. Those guys in there are NBA champions also.

“So, I understand the fans’ reaction, but it was nothing toward the Memphis fans or the organization, or (Grizzlies coach David) Fizdale, who’s my guy.”

There’s a reason teams – especially those, like the Cavs, gearing up for a long playoff run – rest players. All the medical data indicates additional rest helps players and teams in the long run.

But stars like LeBron also help the league draw revenue, and by sitting him, the Cavaliers essentially emphasize their own interests and leave it to other teams to maximize revenue (some of which is shared).

There’s no easy answer here, but I appreciate Lue acknowledging the unintended effects of his decision and the people it harmed. If it makes Grizzlies fans feel any better, Memphis won by eight.

Russell Westbrook: ‘This triple-double thing is kind of getting on my nerves’

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) reacts after a turnover against the Utah Jazz in the second half during an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016, in Salt Lake City. The Jazz won 109-89. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Russell Westbrook has now gone three straight games without a triple-double, which is his longest streak without achieving the feat in more than a month – which is amazing.

Westbrook – averaging 30.5 points, 10.6 assists and 10.5 rebounds per game – is on pace to join Oscar Robertson as the only players to average a triple-double for a full season. Westbrook has nearly as many triple-doubles this season (12) as the rest of the NBA combined (16). His seven-game triple-double streak, the longest since Michael Jordan, was widely celebrated.

But with the Thunder hitting a small rough patch – losing to the Trail Blazers by 19 and Jazz by 20 the last two days – Westbrook wants to find a new topic.

Westbrook, via Fred Katz of The Norman Transcript

“I just know, go out and play every night. That’s it,” Westbrook said. “I really don’t care what people think is real and what’s not. I just go out and compete, and that’s it. Honestly man, people in this triple-double thing is kind of getting on my nerves, honestly.

“People think that if I don’t get it, it’s like a big thing,” he said. “When I do get it, it is a thing. If you would just let me play and if I get it, I get it. If I don’t, I don’t.”

If Westbrook doesn’t want people to talk about triple-doubles so much, he shouldn’t chase them.

Yes, Westbrook breaks from the script to seek double-digit rebounds and assists – and his teammates help. They box out for him to pull rebounds from them and shoot off his passes when it isn’t always wise.

Sure, there are advantages to this style. Westbrook can turn a defense rebound into an attack on the other end more quickly than anyone in the league. Westbrook dominating the ball offensively, either shooting himself or setting up the shooter, isn’t a half-bad offense considering the rest of Oklahoma City’s roster.

But also believe this: If triple-doubles weren’t a statistical accomplishment anyone noticed, Westbrook would play differently.

That hardly makes him unique. Draymond Green, LeBron James and countless others have chased triple-doubles. Westbrook’s natural play just gets him close enough to chase more often, and he indulges that temptation for statistical accomplishment.

When it works – the Thunder are 28-3 in his triple-double games the last two years, including playoffs – Westbrook seems proud, though he always downplays his individual statistics. When it doesn’t, he suddenly blames anyone discussing it. If everyone ignored his triple-doubles going forward, I wonder how that would go over.

Craig Sager dies at age 65

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 13:  Honoree Craig Sager accepts the Jimmy V Award for Perserverance onstage during the 2016 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Craig Sager was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame on Tuesday – an event that has unfortunately become a fitting sendoff to one of the NBA’s most beloved figures.

Sager died Thursday at the age of 65 after a lengthy bout with leukemia.

A sideline reporter, Sager was known worldwide for his wildly colorful suits – outfits that reflected a fulfilling and fun life. His battle with leukemia revealed him as not just a joyous personality who interviewed coaches and players, but an inspiration.

Sager will be missed by those who knew him and those who didn’t. He brought countless smiles to people, and this news will surely bring many tears.

We probably didn’t appreciate Sager enough until he got sick, but we’ve celebrated his life enthusiastically since. We still have a long way to go until we cherish his life as much he always appeared to cherish his own.

Report: Phil Jackson intends to fulfill Knicks contract, maybe stay beyond 2019

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson speaks to reporters during a news conference in Greenburgh, N.Y., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Derek Fisher was fired as New York Knicks coach Monday, with his team having lost five straight and nine of 10 to fall well back in the Eastern Conference playoff race. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Phil Jackson has upset Maverick Carter, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Jay-Z.

And that’s just in the last few weeks.

Jackson has been cruising through his job as Knicks president, alternating shrewd and bombastic moves – drafting Kristaps Porzingis, demanding the triangle and bashing modern offenses, vacationing in the middle of a coaching search, hiring a non-triangle coach, signing Joakim Noah. It seemed Jackson was just collecting (huge) paychecks and doing whatever he pleases until his next retirement, which he indicated was near.

But why give up that life if you can maintain it?

Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:

Jackson fully intends to finish the two years after this season on his Knicks contract, according to NBA sources. Despite all the attention on his opt-out clause in 2017, he might even want to do a new deal that starts in 2019.

Jackson has said he wanted the 2017 opt out in his contract, so he could leave in the event of a a lockout. With a new Collective Bargaining Agreement agreed upon, that’s no longer a reason to leave.

The Lakers job? That speculation will never end, though this report appears to be an attempt to quash it.

Jackson is riding high with the Knicks winning 11 of 16 and surging to third in the Eastern Conference. But their point difference is more emblematic of an 11-14 team than a 14-11 team, and point difference has historically better predicted future success than record. If the Knicks fall back to earth, will Jackson remain so sold on New York?

Report: New Collective Bargaining Agreement will tie exceptions to salary cap

TARRYTOWN, NEW YORK - AUGUST 07:  Deyonta Davis #23 of the Memphis Grizzlies poses for a portrait during the 2016 NBA Rookie Photoshoot at Madison Square Garden Training Center on August 7, 2016 in Tarrytown, New York. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images
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In 2011, NBA owners and players agreed the No. 30 pick in the 2016 draft would earn up to $1,171,560 the following season.

Little did they know the salary cap would skyrocket to $94,143,000 due to lucrative new national TV contracts – leaving the No. 30 pick earning just 1.24% of the cap.

That created an absurd situation where some second-rounders earned more than scaled first-rounders.

No. 31 pick Deyonta Davis and No. 45 pick Demetrius Jackson pick will earn more than first-rounders this year. Other second-rounders used their increased relative leverage to secure more guaranteed money over the duration of their contracts.

But the new Collective Bargaining Agreement will prevent these absurd situations. The previous CBA set exact annual amounts for mid-level, bi-annual, minimum-salary and rookie exceptions. The new CBA will determine those exception values organically.

Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post:

A new CBA offers an opportunity to reset the exception amounts to appropriate levels. So, using preset exception values for the next 6-7 years would probably turn out fine.

But this allows the system to work as intended even with major unforeseen increases or decreases in revenue.

This is probably only correcting for a fluke occurrence that bit the league once, but better to have learned than not. There is no harm, only upside, in tying exceptions to the cap.