Dan Feldman

Michael Jordan, LeBron James
AP Photo/Chuck Burton

LeBron James’ motivation? Chasing Michael Jordan’s ‘ghost’


LeBron James just beat the best team he ever faced, the 73-9 Warriors, to bring Cleveland – Cleveland! – a championship. Golden State responded by getting even better, adding Kevin Durant to a core that already included Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson.

Think LeBron wants to beat that team? Of course he does.

But he’s also driven by something bigger.

LeBron, via Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated:

“My motivation,” James says, “is this ghost I’m chasing. The ghost played in Chicago.”

Michael Jordan is the greatest player of all time.

LeBron James could pass him.

It won’t be easy. Jordan played longer than LeBron has so far and still holds big leads in every counting stat but 3-pointers, including six championships to LeBron’s three. But LeBron isn’t done, and the GOAT title is within his reach.

And, clearly, he wants it.

Knicks sign J.P. Tokoto

Los Angeles Lakers v Philadlephia 76ers
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Ron Baker will have competition for the Knicks’ 15th regular-season roster spot – J.P. Tokoto.

Know why Tokoto could get this deal? He accepted the 76ers’ required tender after they drafted him in the second-round last year following indications he initially pledged to reject it.

Teams must extend the tender – a one-year contract, surely unguaranteed at the minimum – to retain exclusive negotiating rights on a second-round pick. If a player rejects the tender, the team retains those rights for a year.

Tokoto forced the 76ers’ hand by accepting the tender, going to training camp and getting waived to become an unrestricted free agent last year. Had he allowed the 76ers to stash him last season, they’d be the only team he could bargain with now. Philadelphia already has 20 players – five more than the regular-season roster limit – and reportedly plans to sign undrafted North Carolina State guard Cat Barber at some point.

New York presents a much better opportunity for Tokoto.

Tokoto’s D-League rights are already held by the Thunder’s affiliate – which suggests the Knicks like him for their NBA roster (or could have the Westchester Knicks trade for him). This differs from Baker, whose D-League rights the Knicks could simply assign to Westchester by waiving him.

More second-rounders should follow Tokoto’s lead and not allow the drafting team to maintain exclusive negotiating rights while not paying them. This is where his strategy pays off.

Report: Raptors eying Serge Ibaka in 2017 free agency

DENVER, COLORADO - APRIL 05:  Serge Ibaka #9 of the Oklahoma City Thunder looks on during a break in the action against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on April 5, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Thunder defeated the Nuggets 124-102. 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 Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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The Magic just traded for Serge Ibaka, and best-case scenario, he’ll play well for them this season. Then, Orlando will have to fight off outside suitors when Ibaka becomes an unrestricted free agent — and there will be outside suitors.

Start with Toronto.

Doug Smith of the Toronto Star on the Raptors (hat tip: Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors):

Rest assured, at this moment – and all know how things can change – I know a free agent Serge Ibaka is very much on their minds

This is reminiscent of Nicolas Batum. The Hornets traded for Batum on an expiring contract last summer, and rumors quickly linked him to the Raptors. In the end, Batum re-signed with Charlotte.

Ibaka would fit well in Toronto. The Raptors still have no clear answer at power forward, even after signing Jared Sullinger and retaining Patrick Patterson. Ibaka would also complement center Jonas Valanciunas by spacing the floor offensively and protecting the rim defensively. Valanciunas would have more space to score in the post, and Toronto could facilitate the room without compromising defensively.

2017 free agency is a long way off, and a lot can change between now and then. For now, this is just insight into Toronto’s thinking and little more.

Agent: Amar’e Stoudemire had NBA offers before signing in Israel

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 25:  Amar'e Stoudemire #1 of the New York Knicks stands on the court in the first half of their game against the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden on December 25, 2014 in New York City.  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 Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Here’s a slightly more believable claim involving Amar’e Stoudemire.

Ian Begley of ESPN:

Stoudemire wanted to play for the Suns next season, but they didn’t want him.  So, he signed with the Knicks to retire and then signed in Israel.

That’d be a pretty unconventional route if he truly had NBA offers on the table. But I’m curious about those offers. Were they fully guaranteed, or would Stoudemire have had to earn a regular-season roster spot during training camp? There’s a big difference.

Dwyane Wade: LeBron James couldn’t believe Heat didn’t offer me Kobe Bryant-like contract

BEIJING - AUGUST 22:  (L-R) LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade of the United States compete against Argentina during a men's semifinal baketball game at the Wukesong Indoor Stadium on Day 14 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 22, 2008 in Beijing, China.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

The Lakers handed Kobe Bryant a two-year, $48.5 million contract extension without negotiation in 2013.

When Dwyane Wade sought a two-year, $50 million deal from the Heat this summer — a far smaller burden against a dramatically higher salary cap — they balked.

So, before leaving Miami for the Bulls, Wade went on vacation and spoke with LeBron James and Chris Paul about his predicament.

Wade, via ESPN:

They was in disbelief that I didn’t have any deal that I wanted. Bron always said when we was in Miami, he always said, “D-Wade is going to be like Kobe. He’s going to get that Kobe deal.” So I think their disbelief was, “Why are you even a free agent? You shouldn’t even be.”

Read between the lines. Wade is pulling the “I’m not saying, but I heard…” bit. He wants it out there that the Heat didn’t treat him as well as the Lakers treated Kobe. Wade just doesn’t want to say something that polarizing himself.

But Wade’s sentiment is understandable. Unlike Kobe, Wade took discounts for years to help Miami contend. (And to Pat Riley’s credit, he gave Wade what he wanted with championship-caliber rosters.) Wade just never got the payday at the end of the tunnel.

The Heat’s stance is also understandable. Kobe’s extension held back the Lakers for a couple years. They still defend the move, but other teams learned a lesson in how not to operate. Miami also didn’t have enough cap room to offer Wade $50 million — at least not after re-signing Hassan Whiteside. The Heat would’ve had to dump Josh McRoberts, which would’ve likely required surrendering a positive asset.

So, while it’s strange to see Wade in Chicago, this had been building for a while. LeBron might have been surprised, but I doubt he was completely shocked. He admonished Miami’s spending habits before leaving for Cleveland.

For better or worse, the Heat aren’t the Lakers.