Kurt Helin

2015 NBA Finals - Game Two

Report: Thunder, Grizzlies, Mavericks interested in Mike Miller

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Mike Miller signed with Cleveland for last season following LeBron James north from Miami. That season didn’t work out the way Miller wanted. Off the court, he was an important part of the locker room chemistry, but on the court he fell out of favor early with the Cavs coaching staff and averaged 2.1 points per game during the season. In the Finals, it took a lot of injuries for David Blatt to call Miller’s number, and even then it was in small doses.

Sunday the Cavaliers traded Miller to Portland. However, the Trail Blazers are expected to buy Miller out; they are a rebuilding team who made that trade to get the picks, not an aging veteran.

Once that buyout happens, where might Miller the free agent land? Marc Stein of ESPN had some potential early answers.

The Thunder? Interesting, in that Miller played for new OKC coach Billy Donovan in college and the two are still close to this day. Miller and Kevin Durant are tight.

But here’s the problem: The Thunder already have a roster of 14 guaranteed contracts and have yet to sign first-round pick Josh Huestis. That’s 15, the max allowed. The Thunder don’t have space for him. Memphis is at 15 as well. Someone (not me) must have pointed this out to Stein.

He wants to be on a contender, and he wants to play. The most likely way that happens is Miller starts the season on the NBA sidelines, but when injuries flare up on a team his phone rings.

What he can bring that team at this point on the court is up for debate. But the timing of this move likely leaves him standing and without a chair when the music stops and the season tips off.

Gary Vitti, Laker trainer for everyone from Magic through Kobe Bryant, to retire after next season

Los Angeles Lakers v Dallas Mavericks
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When Gary Vitti first interviewed for the job, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were the star Lakers players for coach Pat Riley. It was 1984, and Vitti wasn’t sure he wanted the job.

He took it and for 32 years has been the Lakers trainer and confidant to players. Magic, Kareem, through Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, to the current crop of Lakers. He’s lasted through Riley, Phil Jackson, Mike D’Antoni and every other coach to come through the doors. He’s got eight championship rings.

And after this next season, the dean of NBA trainers is walking away. Hanging up his tape, as it were.

Vitti, a part of the Laker fabric, talked about it with Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.

“From a basketball standpoint, the greatest championship would be 1985, the first time we beat Boston,” Vitti said as he slowly consumed an open-faced gyro at an upscale Manhattan Beach restaurant near his home. “We lost to the Celtics the year before and should have beat them. A lot of my interview with Riley was him talking about that. He said to me, ‘We need to win.'”

Vitti has had a special place within the Lakers. He’s a liaison between the players and coaches/front office. He sits close to Byron Scott on the bench. It’s a job he has grown into and is passionate about. When the Lakers health fortunes turned on the team in the past few years, some of the louder than smart Lakers fans online blamed Vitti. Wiser fans knew that what happened to Steve Nash’s nerves, Kobe’s Achilles, Julius Randle’s leg, and on down the list were not on the training staff.

Vitti could have stayed on as long as he wanted. But it’s time, he said.

“When somebody gets hurt, I blame myself. That’s the Laker way — you’ve got a problem, you go in the bathroom, you look in the mirror, you start with that person,” Vitti said. “The one that really affected me and maybe even affected this decision [to retire] was Julius Randle. All of his doctors and his surgeon are saying that nothing was missed, but the guy goes out there and breaks his leg the first game [last season]. That one really bothered me.”

If Vitti ever writes a biography of his time with the team, that will be a must read.

Report: Cavaliers trade Brendan Haywood, Mike Miller, two second-round picks to Portland

Milwaukee Bucks v Cleveland Cavaliers
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The question was not if but when and where the Cavaliers would trade Brendan Haywood — more accurately, his $10.5 non-guaranteed contract — and what would the price be.

The answers turned out to be Sunday, to Portland, and they threw in Mike Miller and a couple second round picks, for cash.

The expected trade of Haywood has been confirmed by everyone west of the Mississipi. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports had it first.

The Cavaliers will have two separate trade exceptions – $10.5 million and $2.85 million – that they’ll have one calendar year to use. The Cavaliers can use a trade exception to acquire a player under contract in a deal. Those salaries count against the salary cap, but don’t impact luxury tax payments.

The deal could spare the Cavaliers nearly $10 million in salary and luxury tax payments.

Let’s break down what everybody gets out of this and why they did it.

CLEVELAND:
• The two trade exceptions, $10.5 million and $2.85 million, which can be used to bring in a player mid-season without sending anyone out.
• The Cavaliers likely never use those trade exceptions, making this a move about saving money — almost $10 million when all is said and done. The Cavaliers are already flirting with the $84.7 million tax line without having yet re-signed Tristan Thompson, Matthew Dellavedova, and probably J.R. Smith. Former Nets executive Bobby Marks summed it up well on Twitter.

PORTLAND:
• Two second-round picks. The first in 2019 is the better of the Timberwolves or Lakers picks (the Cavs have the rights to both). The second is the Cavaliers own pick in 2020.
• Portland will waive Haywood, saving his non-guaranteed money.
• Portland is expected to negotiate a buyout with Miller, allowing the veteran to hook up with an interested contender (he cannot re-sign with the Cavaliers for a year). Whatever he takes less than the $2.85 million he is owed is money the Blazers saves.
• Bottom line, the Blazers just bought two second round picks at $1.4 million apiece.

Who won the trade? It’s not going to move the needle for either team on the court in the short term. So would you prefer to save money or pick up a couple extra future draft picks?

Nick Young hits Drew League buzzer-beating game winner (VIDEO)

Los Angeles Lakers v Cleveland Cavaliers
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It’s Sunday night in the off-season, why not some more Drew League video, this one from Sunday.

And the Drew League is where Nick Young brings the full Swaggy P and looks good every year.

The better shot in this clip may be $$$ Mike’s game tying three from about Long Beach. But quality move by Young to create space with the behind-the-back pull up for the game-winner.

I’m sure Kobe Bryant disapproves of his celebration.

Pistons’ Andre Drummond, Stanley Johnson showed up owned Drew League game

Detroit Pistons v Miami Heat
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I’m about a week late on this (didn’t get up to the Drew League this year either, shame on me) but thought I’d pass this video along and cheer up Pistons fans.

Detroit’s Andre Drummond and rookie Stanley Johnson showed up to a Drew League game and owned it. If you’re not familiar, the Drew League is the premier pro-am league in Los Angeles and one of the tops in the nation. Pros drop in all the time.

But few put on a show like this. Johnson was the standout rookie at the Orlando Summer League (16.2 points a game, 57.7 percent shooting from the field and 41.7 from three, plus 6.8 rebounds a game) and he dropped 31 points and nine rebounds in this game, showing off some impressive athleticism. Drummond “only” 17 points, 12 rebounds in comparison.

The East is interesting this season, a lot of teams with questions, but I think the Pistons will find their way into the playoffs.