Dan Feldman

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Ice Cube: Chauncey Billups took job with Cavaliers

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Chauncey Billups was scheduled to play in Ice Cube’s new 3-on-3 basketball league.

But Billups appears to be in the center of the Cavalier’s search for someone to run their front office.

Is Billups to Cleveland a done deal?

Ice Cube, via TMZ:

Chauncey took that job

Did Cube just break news? Perhaps.

It’s also possible he’s just aware Billups is a leading candidate and didn’t choose his words carefully. From Ice Cube’s perspective, the BIG3 must look for a replacement player. Whether the Cavs officially offered Billups a job and he accepted it might not be of the most consequence to Ice Cube, who could know it’s headed in that direction.

But we all think it’s trending that way. Do you believe it’s done? Depends how much you trust Cube.

Report: Clippers hired Jerry West to help lure LeBron James

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Rumors are swirling that LeBron James will leave the Cavaliers for Los Angeles, either the Lakers or Clippers, in 2018.

The Clippers want to be prepared.

And that’s why they hired Jerry West as a consultant.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

The grand plan for West and his new Clippers colleagues, president of basketball operations and head coach Doc Rivers and executive vice president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank? Targeting the biggest fish in next summer’s free agent sea: LeBron James.

According to two people with knowledge of the situation, West’s potential ability to improve the Clippers’ chances of landing the Cleveland Cavaliers star in free agency in the summer of 2018 was a significant factor in his hiring and in the willingness of owner Steve Ballmer to pay West between $4 and $5 million annually.

The Clippers’ first order of business is re-signing Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, which won’t be easy with the Spurs (for Paul) and Celtics (for Griffin) swarming. Retaining Paul is particularly important, considering his friendship with LeBron. But keeping Griffin would also help the Clippers maintain their high level of play, a necessity when competing with the more prestigious Lakers.

The Clippers could also trade for Carmelo Anthony. LeBron has discussed a desire to play with Paul, Anthony and Dwyane Wade – even a willingness to take a pay cut to make it happen.

But how much of a pay cut?

If they trim their roster to just Paul and Griffin, the Clippers would still project to be fall short of having max cap space in 2018. DeAndre Jordan can also become a free agent that year, and the center is an important cog. LeBron joining for the mid-level exception?

This doesn’t even account for Anthony or exactly how the Clippers would drop Austin Rivers ($12,650,000 player option), Jamal Crawford ($3 million of $14.5 million guaranteed) and Wesley Johnson ($6,134,520) – all of whom have deals that run through 2018-19.

If LeBron wants to sign with the Clippers, they could always trade Griffin. It’d be hard, but possible, to build a championship contender from there. Griffin would fetch something.

It’s a grand plan, one West might be singularly qualified to execute. He brought Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant together with the Lakers when Shaq was the biggest free agent ever and teams picking higher than the Hornets (whom the Lakers traded with) wanted Kobe.

West also shares a bond with LeBron, which stems in part from their shared losing in the NBA Finals. LeBron, a student of the game, surely respects West – and probably appreciates how often West has publicly defended him.

There’s a long way between that mutual admiration and LeBron signing with Clippers. But the upside is so incredible, it’s a swing for the fences worth taking.

Besides, the Clippers’ road to LeBron looks similar to their optimal path forward anyway. Success starts with re-signing Paul and Griffin.

Report: Lakers, Pacers engaged in Paul George trade talks

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The Lakers were reportedly resisting trading for Paul George. Why would they surrender assets for someone with his sights set them in 2018 free agency, anyway?

But the Pacers have apparently drummed up enough of a trade market where the Lakers will at least discuss a deal.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Pacers are backed into a corner, whether they trade with the Lakers or any other team. Everyone believes George will sign with the Lakers in 2018 and is proposing trades accordingly.

George still has value as a rental to teams like the Cavaliers, who are ready to win now. That shouldn’t apply to the Lakers, though they could get impatient.

The Lakers would trade for George to protect against him going elsewhere and falling for his new team. They’d also block the (remote) possibility of George playing out the season in Indiana, making an All-NBA team then signing a lucrative designated-veteran-player contract to stay.

There’s risk in trading for George on an expiring contract. He could get to Los Angeles, hate it and leave in a year. See Dwight Howard.

But there’s more value in securing George’s Bird Rights (i.e., the ability to pay him more than anyone else next season), keeping him from a contender that might tempt him to re-sign and eliminating the threat of a designated-veteran-player deal with the Pacers.

The Lakers wouldn’t have to trade much for him. It’s a narrow market given George’s clear plan to get to Los Angeles anyway.

The Pacers would prefer to get something for him rather than losing him for nothing next year.

So, maybe there’s common ground. It’s at least worth exploring.

Report: Rockets offering James Harden contract extension that could be worth projected max of $168 million over four years

AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith
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The Rockets signed James Harden to a contract extension last year, which would usually preclude him from signing another extension this year. But the new Collective Bargaining Agreement includes a special provision for him and Russell Westbrook.

Houston apparently hopes to take advantage.

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

For the second consecutive season, the Rockets intend to offer Harden a contract extension long before he could hit free agency, a person will knowledge of the team’s plans said Tuesday. The individual spoke on the condition of anonymity because the team’s intentions have not been made public.

The Rockets “plan to extend James Harden at the first opportunity,” the individual said. “That is the plan.”

Harden is locked up for the next two years, at $28,299,399 and $30,421,854. An extension would kick in in 2019.

It could be worth a projected max of $168 million over four years. (The exact total wouldn’t be determined until 2019.) Presumably, the Rockets would give him the max. He’s their unquestioned franchise player, and they have treated him as such.

Houston and Harden could wait another year – again, he can’t become a free agent until 2019 – and sign an extension next year. Then, it could be for five years worth a projected max of $217 million. It’d have the same structure over the first four years as the extension he could sign this summer. It’d just have a fifth season tacked on (with a projected $49 million salary).

There’s plenty to weigh – security vs. flexibility. But the Rockets are going to give Harden the option of locking in again.

Rumor: Kyrie Irving telling other stars he might push for trade if LeBron James leaves Cavaliers

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Flash back to January 2014: Kyrie Irving was reportedly telling people he wanted to leave the Cavaliers.

A few months later, LeBron James returned and Irving’s world changed. There has been some rockiness, but LeBron carried Irving to basketball’s biggest stages, where Irving has earned a reputation as a big-game player. Irving won a title, and Cleveland will contend again next year.

But what about 2018, when LeBron could leave the Cavs (maybe for Lakers or Clippers)?

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

All-Star Kyrie Irving has been contacting some of his former Team USA teammates and letting them know that he might be willing to push for a trade, especially if he feels the Cavs’ run could end quickly with James able to opt out after next season.

Through back channels, Chicago would be one of the places that Irving would be interested to play.

It’s easy to see these conversations getting spun beyond the intent. It’s a short hop from a vague “Wouldn’t it be cool if we played together?” among friends to this report.

But Irving will be just 26 next year and under contract for another season. The Cavaliers likely want to make him centerpiece of their next era.

If Irving threatens to leave in 2019, when Kevin Love can also become a free agent, they might trade him. And Irving might do that.

It’s fair to wonder when and how far Cleveland falls. It could get ugly in a hurry.

But I wouldn’t assume Irving is already lining up hard contingencies if LeBron leaves – or that the Cleveland will accommodate Irving’s plan even if he makes one.