Dan Feldman

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Hawks GM: LeBron James probably leaked Warriors rumor


LeBron James would reportedly meet with the Warriors if they clear max space next summer. But LeBron also called that rumor “nonsense.”

Hawks general manager and former Golden State assistant general manager Travis Schlenk, via CBS Atlanta:

I would be really, really surprised if LeBron went to Golden State.

The one thing I will say about Mr. James: He is the master at using the media to get whatever story he wants out there. He’s perfected the art of the social-media game. I think that those things were probably leaked by them, by Mr. James and his camp.

I don’t see a universe where that happens.

It would be interesting to see. It would be interesting to see what he’d be like with the rest of those guys, with his playmaking ability and obviously with the shooting that Golden State has.

I have no problem with Schlenk openly sharing his assessment of the situation. In fact, I agree with it. I believe these leaks serve LeBron’s greater purpose of trying to win in Cleveland by reminding the Cavaliers not to take him for granted and spend what’s necessary to improve his supporting cast.

But I wonder whether the NBA and National Basketball Players Association will be as forgiving of Schlenk’s openness.

While Knicks president, Phil Jackson was widely panned for criticizing LeBron. Using the word “posse” was a flashpoint, but even Jackson admitted he wasn’t supposed to talk about another team’s player. Though the union spoke out only once Jackson said Carmelo Anthony would be better off elsewhere, the response seemed like a culmination.

This isn’t tampering. It’s closer to anti-tampering, Schlenk implicitly dissuading LeBron from coming to Atlanta (not that LeBron needed any more reasons). But the line for acceptable remarks by an executive about an opposing player is a moving target.

If he really wanted to convey the opinion that LeBron was behind the Warriors report,* Schlenk could have hidden as an anonymous source. Plenty of reporters would have granted him anonymity to discuss LeBron’s media manipulation.

*I doubt Schlenk did. He was asked about it and answered.

Instead, Schlenk put his name behind his comments. Which is why I’m not bothered by this at all.

Lakers fined $50,000 for Magic Johnson tampering with Giannis Antetokounmpo

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The NBA fined the Lakers a record $500,000 last summer for tampering with Paul George (then of the Pacers, now with the Thunder).

The Lakers apparently haven’t learned their lesson.

Lakers president Magic Johnson has since tampered with Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, the league ruled.

Nick Friedell of ESPN:

As Johnson watches from afar, he can’t help but see and enjoy the parallels between his game and that of the Bucks big man.

“Oh yeah,” Johnson told ESPN recently. “With his ball-handling skills and his passing ability. He plays above the rim I never could do that. But in his understanding of the game, his basketball IQ, his creativity of shots for his teammates. That’s where we [have the] same thing. Can bring it down, make a pass, make a play. I’m just happy he’s starting in the All-Star game because he deserves that. And he’s going to be like an MVP, a champion, this dude he’s going to put Milwaukee on the map. And I think he’s going to bring them a championship one day.”


The NBA announced today that it has fined the Los Angeles Lakers $50,000 for violating the league’s anti-tampering rule.  The fine is in response to statements regarding the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo made by Earvin Johnson in a recent media interview.

The NBA’s tampering rules remain arbitrarily applied. Maybe team executives aren’t permitted to talk at all publicly about opposing players, but that’d be a major shift in enforcement

Johnson specifically said Antetokounmpo would win a championship in Milwaukee. The NBA is promoting the interview on its own website!

If this is tampering, any time Kings minority owner Shaquille O’Neal praises a non-Sacramento player during a TV appearance is tampering. So is president-coaches – Spurs’ Gregg Popovich, Pistons’ Stan Van Gundy and Timberwolves’ Tom Thibodeau – praising an opposing player before or after a game.

Does the league really want to open that can of worms? More likely, the NBA is just trying to make an example of Johnson.

This is the Lakers’ third tampering fine involving Johnson. The George fine was due directly to general manager Rob Pelinka’s communication with George’s agent, but the league noted that followed a warning to Johnson for literally winking at George during a TV interview. The Lakers were also fined a couple years ago for Johnson – who then held a ceremonial front-office role – tweeting about the team pursuing LeBron James, Kevin Durant and DeMar DeRozan.

For what it’s worth, Antetokounmpo can’t hit free agency until 2021.

But the way things are going, the Lakers might not attract a star free agent until then, anyway.

Report: Celtics, Nuggets, 76ers frontrunners to trade for Tyreke Evans

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Grizzlies guard/forward Tyreke Evans might be the player most likely to get traded before Thursday’s deadline.

He’s having a good year on a bad team and will be a free agent next summer. It’ll take cap space or the mid-level exception to give him a starting salary more than $3,948,000. The way he has played, he might draw even more than the mid-level exception, which is all capped-out Memphis is likely to have available. The Grizzlies have already sent him home in anticipation of a trade.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

As a scorer/ball-handler/playmaker who can play all three perimeter positions, Evans could help all those teams.

But is he worth the first-round pick Memphis wants? That’s the key question as the deadline looms.

Would the Grizzlies take bad long-term salary to get a better pick? Is Evans career-high 39% 3-point shooting, up from 31% for his career, sustainable? Those are a couple of smaller questions teams on each side of a deal must assess to answer the larger question.

Report: LeBron James still won’t waive his no-trade clause

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LeBron James was reportedly set on not waiving his no-trade clause to leave the Cavaliers this season.

The Cavs are doing nearly all they can to test his commitment.

Is LeBron having second thoughts?

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

This is the best sign in a while LeBron will stay with Cleveland next summer.

LeBron said before the season he still planned to finish his career with the Cavaliers, and many of the reasons he returned in 2014 remain intact: He wants to live in his native Northeast Ohio. He wants to bolster his legacy with a homecoming. He wants to market a homecoming.

Approving a trade now would undercut all that.

Perhaps, LeBron still leaves this offseason. But he’s not ready to abandon his Cleveland plan quite yet.

Escaping shadow of LeBron James’ tweet, Shabazz Napier seizing opportunity with Trail Blazers

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DETROIT – When Shabazz Napier led Connecticut to the 2014 national title, LeBron James – then with the Heat and months before free agency – tweeted:

That was atypical thinking. Dante Exum, Marcus Smart and Tyler Ennis were generally rated higher than Napier, and Elfrid Payton also got drafted higher. Napier was commonly seen as a second-round pick.

Miami traded up to get him with the No. 24 pick, anyway. Though Heat president Pat Riley downplayed LeBron’s involvement in the selection, LeBron was clearly pleased.

But LeBron still bolted for the Cavaliers a couple weeks later, leaving Napier in Miami with an organization that wasn’t necessarily sold on him.

“I knew for a fact they picked me because LeBron,” Napier said. “Which is understandable. I would want to keep the best player on the planet, too. So, that sucked for me.”

Napier tried not to let it affect him, but he couldn’t help but notice how LeBron’s tweet loomed over his pro career.

“To everyone else, it was big. Whenever he says something, it’s big. And that’s because of the impact he has,” Napier said. “But, to me as a person, I always try to live in the moment. I don’t look at it as, ‘Oh, this guys said my name.’ He doesn’t make that big of an impact on my life.

“Unless it’s like my mother or something like that, no one else has a big impact on my life to make me feel a certain way.”

Napier said he lacked confidence throughout his rookie year, taking the blame for that and noting he was too immature. But he also clearly believes he deserved more than fringe-rotation minutes.

“I felt like they didn’t really give me an opportunity,” Napier said.

The next offseason, the Heat traded him to the Magic of practically no return.

“When I went to Orlando, I thought there was going to be an opportunity,” Napier said. “But there wasn’t, really.”

Napier’s production regressed, as his role shrunk even further. He didn’t look cut out for the NBA.

After only one year, Orlando sent him to the Trail Blazers – again, for no real return. In Portland, his role remained minor last season and to begin this season.

But Napier appears to be finally coming into his own.

Shooting more efficiently than ever while remaining pesky defensively, Napier ranks sixth among backup point guards in real plus-minus:


Napier has made solid gains in most facets of his game, but the biggest change has come with interior scoring. At 6-foot-1, he struggled mightily in the paint against bigger NBA players. After shooting 39% his first three years, Napier has made 57% of his shots in the restricted area this season.

His 3-point percentage has also improved – to 40%, up from 35% his first three seasons. The outside-inside game is producing 9.4 points in 21.6 minutes per game, tilting defenses and creating passing lanes.

Napier can sometimes get overpowered defensively, but he makes up for it with a knack for getting steals.

Important for any Trail Blazers role player, Napier also plays well with both C.J. McCollum (+6.7 points per 100 possessions) and Damian Lillard (+10.9 points per 100 possessions).

But Napier might not be long for Portland.

The Trail Blazers already have $110,456,026 committed to just eight players next season, and that doesn’t even account for pending restricted free agent Jusuf Nurkic. The luxury-tax concerns don’t dissipate in 2019-20, when Portland has $110,128,053 committed to seven players (including rookie-scale options for Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan, but not a probably re-signed Nurkic).

Considering their ability to stagger Lillard and McCollum as lead guards, the Trail Blazers might deem Napier a luxury they can’t afford. Heck, they might not even extend his $3,452,308 qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent.

The way Napier is playing, he might fetch more in free agency. Plenty of teams could use him as a backup point guard, and someone could devote a nice chunk of its mid-level exception to signing Napier.

If he’s bound to leave Portland this summer, could the Trail Blazers preemptively trade him for return before Thursday’s deadline? They should consider it. Shedding him and a minimum-salary player (Pat Connaughton or Jake Layman) would allow Portland to dodge the tax this season.

But tied for sixth in the West at 29-25, the Trail Blazers are also trying to win this season. Having Napier helps. It’s unclear how a cost-cutting move would sit with Lillard.

No matter where he ends the season, free agency will be a big opportunity for Napier. After four years at UConn, he’s already 26. This could be his only shot at a major payday.

Portland coach Terry Stotts credited Napier with working extremely hard last summer in advance of a contract year. That’s why Stotts believes Napier has improved so much, though he recognizes another explanation.

“Probably, if you ask him, he’s given an opportunity,” Stotts said.

In that regard, Napier has finally found a team on the same page as him.

“Everyone talks about I’m playing better,” Napier said. “I think it’s just all about opportunity.”