Kurt Helin

Report: LeBron James could have made more money long term, but opted for more security

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Our own Dan Feldman broke this all down before LeBron James even signed his latest, massive contract — he had some short vs. long term decisions to make.

He could sign another one-year deal and sacrificed a little money in the short term for likely more money long term (remember, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is being negotiated and the landscape could shift), or he could go with a multi-year deal and sacrifice a little long term for security.

LeBron chose security — three years at $100 million, becoming only the third NBA player ever to make more than $30 million in a season. But he could have made more. The fantastic Danny Leroux broke it down at The Sporting News.

The decision cost James some money in the future. Had he signed a one-year deal with an option for a second year, as he did in his first two seasons back with the Cavaliers, James finally could have landed a full maximum five-year contract next offseason, assuming the Over-36 Rule is changed. (He would have sacrificed about $3.4 million this season, though.) That hypothetical 2017 deal would have come as the salary cap leapt from $94 million to $102 million, meaning he would have made more money for 2017-18 and 2018-19. Alas, he went with security and avoided having to continue to play these annual option games.

The money still is unprecedented, after all. The far more interesting implications of James’ decision come in the uncertainty of the future. The NBA and its players already have begun discussions on a new collective bargaining agreement that will take effect next summer. Part of those discussions likely will be the existence and limits of maximum contracts.

Some people hate to hear this — because you and I are never going to make $30 million in a year (likely not our lifetimes) — but LeBron is underpaid. Based on what other teams have said off the record about other superstars, he likely generates more than $70 million in revenue annually for the Cavaliers between ticket sales, sponsor deals, and everything else — and that’s not counting the boost in franchise value. LeBron drives revenue, but because of the max salary rules in the NBA he can only make so much (which benefits the Tristan Thompsons and J.R. Smiths of the world, who have value on the court but don’t generate the same revenue).

There has been talk of changing those max salary restrictions — if LeBron (or Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and all the other obvious max guys in the NBA) can make more money but the salary cap doesn’t change, it becomes much harder to form “superteams.” It’s something some owners support. It is possible under the new CBA LeBron could make more. But even if that happens (far from a sure thing) he will be a free agent in 2018, when he will still be a max player and can cash in.

All of which is to say, LeBron is a smart man about business and knew his options. He made his call. And I don’t think he’s hurting financially.

Celebrate Magic Johnson’s birthday by watching his 32 best assists

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I’ll admit my bias up front: Magic Johnson remains my all time favorite NBA player.

The five-time NBA champ and Hall of Famer turned 57 on Sunday, which seemed like a good excuse to break out the highlight videos. This is just his assists — no buckets, just dimes. Enjoy.

Watch some Klay Thompson, USA highlights of win over France

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The good news for Team USA Sunday was that Klay Thompson got it going — and that was enough to lift them to a victory over a shorthanded French team.

Thompson had shot 18 percent from three through the first four games of the Rio Olympics, but was 7-of-13 from deep on Sunday, racking up 30 points in the process. The USA needed those buckets because they still aren’t playing great defense and France came within three 100-97.

Check out the highlights of the win below. Team USA is off until Wednesday, when they start the eight-team tournament that will determine who gets the Gold in Rio.

Check out Kyrie Irving’s ridiculous, falling alley-oop to Kevin Durant

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Kyrie Irving had a dozen assists on Sunday as the USA moved the ball better against France than it had for a couple of games.

But none of his assists were as impressive as this one to Kevin Durant in the fourth quarter.

Klay Thompson, American offense just enough to keep USA undefeated, beat France 100-97

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Coming into the final game of group play Sunday, Klay Thompson was shooting 18 percent from three, and for two games the American offense had been too much one-on-one isolation.

Against France, those things improved. Klay Thompson had 30 points and knocked down 7-of-13 threes. The USA moved the ball better in the half court, highlighted by Kyrie Irving‘s 12 assists (he also had 10 points).

However, the USA’s unimpressive defense did not improve — and now they head to the one-and-done medal round where that problem could finally bite them.

It did not on Sunday, as the USA surrendered most of a 16-point third quarter lead but held on for a 100-97 win against a French team that did not play Tony Parker due to a toe injury (and they wanted to rest him before the quarterfinals).

The USA finishes group play 5-0 and on top of Group A. They will face the fourth place team in Group B — which likely will be one of Spain, Croatia, or Brazil — on Wednesday.

The USA has had stretches where they impressed, but they have not put away solid teams, allowing them to hang around and have a chance. The Americans need to figure out how to change that.

“Not to take breaks on the defensive end,” Thompson said would be the key in a postgame televised interview. “We’re playing a lot of great pick-and-roll teams, and we’re just missing coverages and not trusting each other enough. But we’ll get there. I mean, this game felt a lot closer than it had to be but a win’s a win.

“I’ll tell you what, we’ll improve. I guarantee it.”

The USA will need to, they could well face this French team again in the semi-finals. The French didn’t play Parker and ran a fair amount of zone defense — like they were holding some tricks back for a potential future meeting.

Teams with guards that don’t melt under pressure defense have given the USA trouble. Even with Parker out, France’s Thomas Hurtel fit that bill.  

The USA’s offense much better at the start, hitting 11-of-16 from the floor and picking up 10 assists on those 11 buckets in the first quarter on their way to 30 points. However, they were ahead just 30-24 after one quarter because they were not getting stops.

The USA pushed the lead out to double digits thanks to a reserves lineup of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, and DeAndre Jordan — that group outscored the French reserves 17-6 late in the first early into the second, putting the USA up 36-26.

The USA offense was good enough to hold onto a 55-46 at the half. In the third quarter, France missed shots (not really thanks to USA defense) and that led to transition chances for the Americans — including some Thompson threes. The USA pushed the lead up to 16 at one point and led 81-69 after three.

However, in the fourth, when the USA started 0-of-3 from the floor, the French cut the lead down to within one possession. France won the fourth 28-19. However, Irving took on more responsibilities, the USA made enough offensive plays, and they held on for the win (the final margin of three is a little deceiving as the French hit a three at the buzzer). 

From here on out Olympic basketball enters a one-and-done tournament format — lose and you go home. While the Americans have yet to lose in Rio, their defense and overall level of play have given other teams hope. If the USA can’t find more defensive focus by Wednesday, the Americans gold medal streak could come to an end next week in Brazil.