INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James delivered on a promise and ended decades of Cleveland sports misery in 2016.
For leading the Cavaliers to an NBA title and ending the city’s 52-year title drought, James was chosen Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year on Thursday, joining Tiger Woods as the award’s only two-time winners since its inception in 1954.
“I’m honored,” James said following shootaround before the Cavs hosted the Los Angeles Clippers. “I’m more happy for my family, my kids, for my wife, my mom, and for my foundation, for the kids that I represent and the kids that use me as a role model and an inspiration.”
Appearing in his sixth straight NBA Finals in June, James rallied the Cavs from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the favored Golden State Warriors, who won 73 games during the regular season but couldn’t put Cleveland away. James scored 41 points in Games 5 and 6 and made a key block in the final minutes of an epic Game 7, making the Cavs the first Cleveland major sports franchise to win a title since the Browns in 1964.
James was selected finals MVP for the third time in his career.
The 31-year-old James returned to Cleveland as a free agent in 2014 and pledged to bring a title to his home state. He did it in his second season, an achievement that ranks as the greatest accomplishment of his career.
James had spurned Cleveland in 2010, leaving for Miami, where he and close friend Dwyane Wade led the Heat to two titles and four consecutive finals.
“It’s hard to remember a year with such a crowded field of Sportsperson candidates,” said Chris Stone, SI’s editor in chief. “But in the end, LeBron James was the clear choice.”
When you signal an intent to pay whatever it takes, you’re probably going to have to pay a lot.
Playing for free-spending Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul know their only limit in free agency next summer is the NBA’s max contract. So, they’ll take that to the fullest.
Zach Lowe of ESPN:
The team expects Paul to demand the full five-year max (or whatever the longest possible deal ends up being in the revised collective bargaining agreement) to stick around, per several league sources.
Give it to him. Give it to him and don’t think twice.
The Clippers have assembled a legitimate title contender, and that’s too difficult to do just to break it up now. If they re-sign Griffin, they’d have now recourse to replacing Paul if he leaves.*
*If they re-sign both stars, they’d have even fewer mechanisms to replace free agent J.J. Redick if he leaves. Redick could wind up with a max contract. No joke.
A five-year max contract – projected to be worth about $195 million (or maybe more in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement) – would take Paul into age 37. As he declines, that deal could become a liability.
But the Clippers’ championship window is open. Now is the time to spend. Let the backend of Paul’s contract be tomorrow’s problem.
If the Clippers re-sign Paul, Griffin and J.J. Redick – at any cost – the offseason will be a success. There were already positive signs about Griffin staying. Paul’s interest in a deal only the Clippers can offer him indicates his desire to re-sign, though that doesn’t preclude him from leaving. It’s a long season ahead, and the Clippers can’t secure Paul until July. But at that point, they could go a long way by agreeing to his contract demands.
Doc Rivers went nuts about the refereeing during the Clippers’ 127-122 double-overtime loss to the Nets on Tuesday, getting ejected.
If he stuck around a little longer, he could’ve seen the crucial missed call the NBA later admitted was incorrect.
The Last Two Minute Report contains two missed calls.
The first, an uncalled travel on J.J. Redick in the first overtime, was inconsequential. The Clippers turned the ball over on that possession anyway.
The second helped Brooklyn clinch the win.
With the Clippers down two and 37 seconds remaining in the second overtime, Chris Paul missed a jumper. Sean Kilpatrick grabbed the defensive rebound and converted a three-point play on the other end to ice the game.
But Kilpatrick secured the defensive rebound with help from Isaiah Whitehead, who got away with a loose-ball fouling DeAndre Jordan:
Whitehead (BKN) clamps the arm of Jordan (LAC) and affects his ability to retrieve the rebound.
The Nets weren’t in the penalty, so Jordan wouldn’t have gotten free throws. But the Clippers would’ve gotten the ball back with another chance to tie or take the lead.
Instead, this missed call robbed them of that opportunity.
Remember Isaiah Austin?
He declared for the NBA draft out of Baylor two years ago, but in pre-draft evaluations, he was diagnosed with career-ending Marfan syndrome.
A $1 million insurance policy kicked in. The NBA ceremoniously drafted him. NBA2K15 put him into its video game. The league even offered him a job once he got his degree.
But that’s not where his story ends.
Austin was cleared to play, he told Cassy Athena.
Will Austin reach the NBA? He faces a long road.
Though he was once viewed as a potential top-10 pick, he was projected in the second round by the time he left Baylor. The 7-foot-1 center has plenty of athleticism and a nice shooting stroke. There will be intrigue. But he never put his skills together at Baylor, too frequently deferring. And that was before he missed two years. Who knows where he is now?
But that we’re evaluating Austin’s on-court abilities at this point is a victory in its own right.
Update: Marc Stein of ESPN:
The Nets signed Allen Crabbe to a $75 million offer sheet. The Trail Blazers matched.
The Nets signed Tyler Johnson to a $50 million offer sheet. The Heat matched.
Third time a charm?
Brooklyn might find out with Donatas Motiejunas, who remains a restricted free agent with the Rockets.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
The Rockets became so disenchanted with Motiejunas negotiations, they reportedly pulled their offer (which reportedly contained a $7 million guarantee for this season). An offer sheet from another team might be Motiejunas’ best chance to find a favorable deal.
The Nets have more than $18 million in cap space, so they can afford to top Houston’s previous offer – but they don’t have to if that’s no longer on the table. Motiejunas might have missed out by waiting.
Brooklyn is in a bind with so many draft picks sent to the Celtics. The Nets must be creative in adding talent, a productive 26-year-old with health concerns might be a reasonable risk for them. The results of this physical will be essential in determining how to proceed.