Kurt Helin


LeBron James stays on sidelines while Cavaliers, Tristan Thompson talks stall out


LeBron James has power, and he is going to wield it.

There is no thought he is going to leave the Cavaliers, but he has opted out of his contract and is a free agent right now — and he’s not talking to the Cavaliers about an extension. He’s not talking to anyone.

That includes free agents the Cavaliers are trying to recruit, such as David West. LeBron can be a fantastic draw and a closer as a recruiter because players know with him there will be wins, there will be shots at rings. But LeBron isn’t picking up the phone to recruit.

Not until his boy Tristan Thompson — who shares an agent, not so coincidentally — is inked to his new deal, and those talks are currently stalled.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN reminded us yesterday that LeBron is still sitting, waiting.

And LeBron is going to get what he wants. He’s going to stand on the side and channel Teddy KGB — “pay dat man his money” — and get his way. Tristan Thompson is going to get paid, probably more than he would otherwise (although with the salary cap spiking any deal for Thompson will not look that bad in a couple years).

All because LeBron has leverage. The Cavaliers front office and ownership cannot afford to have LeBron lose faith in them, to plant the seed that they are not up to the task of constructing a champion around LeBron. He came back once, and the odds are incredibly slim that he would leave again, but even that little risk is too big for the Cavaliers to stomach. Miami’s brass didn’t think LeBron would leave after four straight trips to the Finals. But LeBron saw a tough path to winning more rings with that core, he didn’t have power, and then there was the pull of home and an agent who had greased those skids. Cleveland cannot overplay its hand with the idea he would never leave again.

Last year it was July 11 before LeBron chose Cleveland, it could be that far into free agency before he re-signs there after opting out. LeBron is in no hurry. He will re-sign, but again on a short deal that allows him to opt out next summer and start to cash in on the new television money about to flood the NBA. LeBron is in his prime and isn’t about to take a Tim Duncan discount — quite the opposite, he wants every dollar he can get. You shouldn’t blame someone for trying to maximize their income (Dan Gilbert is a far richer man, his franchise value is through the roof, with LeBron under contract, he’s not hurting and can handle the league luxury tax he will pay).

We know how this movie is going to end. Tristan Thompson will get paid, LeBron will get paid, and next October, when the season tips off, hopes will rightfully be high in Cleveland. This little episode will all be forgotten.

Except maybe by LeBron.


LaMarcus Aldridge thanks Portland fans in letter

LaMarcus Aldridge

A year ago, LaMarcus Aldridge said he wanted to be remembered as the “best Blazer ever” and other things in a love letter to Portland, which turned out to be a PR statement crafted by the team. Aldridge put his name on it, but his heart was not behind it.

This July 4, Aldridge announced his intention to sign with the San Antonio Spurs.

This time Aldridge penned his own letter to the fans in Portland, via the Oregonian.

Dear Rip City, Thank you!

Those two words on a page don’t begin to express the gratitude I have for the opportunity the entire Trail Blazers organization, my teammates, the media, and you fans gave me. The past nine years have been a blessing, and I will take all of the valuable memories with me as I head back home.

As I’m sure you can respect, my decision was a very personal one but not one I took lightly. Although I will be wearing a different uniform the next time I come back to Portland, please know that I will always hold my time in a Blazers uniform near and dear to my heart.

Your friend, LA

I’m not sure a lot of Blazers fans will see him as “your friend” right now. Especially after that letter a year ago.

Aldridge can certainly make a case for his move — he’s going home to Texas and walking right onto a contender. But that doesn’t mean it hurts less for any Blazers fans who have felt like their team was close and just could not catch a break — not with Brandon Roy’s knees, not with Greg Oden’s knees, not with Wesley Matthews Achilles.

How will Blazers fans react when Aldridge returns? Boos? Applause and a thank you? Some mix of the two?

Report: Sacramento reaches 4-year, $33 million deal with Kosta Kufos

Memphis Grizzlies v Golden State Warriors - Game Five

The Kings have their franchise cornerstone center, and whether or not his coach wants him DeMarcus Cousins isn’t going anywhere. Probably. The ground seems to shift under the Kings a lot, but the owner loves Cousins so he likely stays.

However, Cousins needs some help along the frontline and the Kings made a nice pickup on the Fourth of July by prying Kosta Koufos out of Memphis. Marc Stein of ESPN broke the story.

Koufos played 16.6 minutes a game behind the deep front line of the Grizzlies last season, scoring 5.2 points and grabbing 5.3 rebounds a game. He is one of the better backup big men in the league, and a number of teams had interest. Good on the Kings to grab him at a fair price.

It’s going to be interesting to see how George Karl fits all these pieces together. There had been talk about him wanting to go smaller with Rudy Gay at the four, but then there’s not a lot of minutes up front for Cousins, Koufos, and just-drafted Willie Cauley-Stein if the Kings go that way. Remember the Kings also have picked up Rajon Rondo and Marco Belinelli this summer. The Kings should be interesting this coming season.

Report: Knicks to acquire Kyle O’Quinn in sign-and-trade with Orlando

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets

This is a quality pickup by the Knicks.

Yes, the Knicks just signed Robin Lopez, but they need depth behind him.

Kyle O’Quinn is a smart player with the potential to be a good rotation big. He is physical, likes to bang, but also can knock down midrange shots, operates well setting picks or from the high post. His game seemed to plateau a little last season, but he’s a smart free agent gamble.

And he will be a New York Knick through a sign-and-trade with Orlando, something first reported by Adrain Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

After agreeing to a four-year, $16 million deal, the New York Knicks have acquired free-agent forward Kyle O’Quinn in a sign-and-trade with the Orlando Magic, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The Magic will receive cash considerations and the right to swap second-round draft picks with the Knicks in 2019, sources said.

That is a good price for a quality backup center — especially one who should fit with the triangle. The fourth year of the deal is a player option. The deal can’t be completed until the moratorium on signings comes on July 9.

Phil Jackson gets a gold star for this move.

Report: Jeremey Lin considering signing with Dallas Mavericks

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers

The Dallas Mavericks are set at four positions: DeAndre Jordan is now in the center slot, Dirk Nowitzki at the four, Chandler Parsons at the three, and Wesley Matthews (coming off Achilles surgery) at the two.

But point guard is a big hole.

There are conversations to bring back J.J. Barea but he alone is not enough.

Jeremy Lin is considering putting his name in the Mavericks’ 10-gallon hat — and taking less money to do it, reports Marc Stein at ESPN.

Dallas only has limited funds to offer, but sources told ESPN.com that Lin is giving the Mavericks strong consideration even though he can likely make more money elsewhere.

Lin’s relationship with Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons from their days as teammates in Houston, sources said, has kept Dallas in the race despite its lack of financial flexibility. Parsons, of course, had a huge hand in the recruiting of DeAndre Jordan to the Mavericks in the richest free-agent score in team history.

What would be smart for Lin is a two-year deal with an opt-out after one. He could ideally show off an improved game — one with fewer turnovers, ideally — and how he helps a contender, then re-enter the free agency market as the cap spike.

Lin is a respectable reserve point guard in the NBA — when allowed to be aggressive in transition, and in the pick-and-roll, he can make things happen. But he turns the ball over on 17.7 percent of his possessions used and he isn’t much of a defender.

He likely can make more than the minimum or, at best (if they waive and stretch Raymond Felton) $2.6 million the Mavericks could offer, but there may not be a better opportunity for Lin than Dallas.