Kurt Helin

Tristan Thompson

Finally finished, Tristan Thompson’s deal works for everyone


It was one of LeBron James‘ issues with the management in Miami — that was a team in a title window, yet they moved Mike Miller to save money against the league’s luxury tax. This was a potentially valuable role player just gone to save money. LeBron wants management to spend when you’ve got a chance to win — and the leverage to make it happen.

Dan Gilbert learned that lesson and he is spending. Big. Like Jay-Z buying champagne — he’s not just buying the bottle, he bought the company — Dan Gilbert is not holding back.

The Cavaliers and Tristan Thompson reached an agreement on a five-year, $82 million deal on Wednesday. Why this took so long is beyond anyone — $80 million had been on the table for months, Thompson and his agent Rich Paul wanted a max but not only did the Cavaliers balk so did any team that could sign Thompson to an offer sheet. The market wasn’t there, it might well not be there next summer either. That left Thompson out in the cold. The Cavaliers could have played hardball after Thompson didn’t sign his qualifying offer, all his leverage was gone. Instead, the Cavaliers tacked on $2 million to the deal as a face-saving measure and it got done.

This is a good deal for both sides. Win-win, if you want the cliché.

For Thompson, he gets PAID. He gets security — five years of as much money as the market would bear. Money that sets his family up for generations. There is certainly no guarantee he would have made more on the open market next year, he’s more valuable to the Cavaliers than most teams. Plus, Thompson gets to play on a contender next to LeBron. If he wanted out, Thompson would have signed the qualifying offer. He didn’t. It ended up being an overly dramatic holdout situation for him, but this was as good a deal as he was going to get. Take the money.

Did the Cavaliers overpay for a guy who comes off the bench and is not an elite scorer? Yes. (Although to qualify that, bigs in the NBA get paid more, basic supply and demand.) Did the Cavaliers dish out nearly $200 million in five-year contracts for the power forward position this summer when you consider the Kevin Love max deal? Yes, they did.

And it was the right thing to do.

When you’re in a championship window, you spend. Make no mistake the Cavaliers did — their luxury tax bill jumped $42.6 million this season thanks to the Thompson deal. The Cavs tax bill now stands at $58.2 million, and only $14.6 million of that is Thompson’s salary, according to former Nets executive and current NBA Twitter star Bobby Marks. Remember, that tax is on top of the $108.6 million in salary already being paid by Dan Gilbert.

Be glad it’s not your money.

And if you’re a Cavaliers fan, be glad he’s willing to spend it.

Thompson gives the Cavaliers a quality player up front who — as we saw in the NBA Finals — other teams struggle to match up against. He’s an elite offensive rebounder who puts up his points efficiently, he’s strong as a roll man who can finish after setting a pick, he’s a solid but not great defender (he’s not a classic rim protector), and he gives you hustle and grit every time on the court. Paired with a good ball handler and scorer — Kyrie Irving, Mo Williams — Thompson has a real offensive role.

It’s the kind of role the Cavaliers need filled if they are going to bring the first title in any pro sport to Cleveland in 51 years. The Cavaliers enter the season as one of a handful of teams with a legit shot to win it all (they are my pick), and when you’re in that championship window you spend. Even if you have to overpay a little to get a role player.

That’s why this deal works for both sides. Thompson gets paid; the Cavaliers get a guy who is not going to win Sixth Man of the Year but can fill that role for them. It’s as win-win as an overpriced contract can get.



Jeff Green gets up to dunk, Kyle Korver can’t slow him (VIDEO)

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While consistency remains his nemesis, there has never been a doubt that Jeff Green has talent and shows it in flashes.

Such as this dunk against the Hawks on Wednesday. Paul Millsap is matched up on Green, so Green wisely takes a step back to receive the ball out beyond the three-point arc where his speed is a huge advantage. Green blows right by Paul Millsap and the only guy to rotate over is Kyle Korver.

This doesn’t end well for Korver.

The Grizzlies went on to win the game, 82-81.

Anthony Davis drops 33 points, 16 boards on Magic (VIDEO)

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Somebody is in midseason form.

Anthony Davis looked like a guy ready to lead a playoff team when the season tips off next week, dropping 33 points and 16 rebounds on Orlando Wednesday night. Davis was far from perfect, he shot just 8-of-24 on the night, but he got to the line 19 times — he forced overtime hitting two free throws — and was the best player on the court in his 41 minutes.

It wasn’t enough, the Magic beat the Pelicans 110-107 in overtime. Nikola Vucevic led Orlando scoring 24 points.

Al Jefferson says with shooting around him he will bounce back

Al Jefferson DeAndre Jordan
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Just like everything else around the Charlotte Hornets, Al Jefferson was not as good last season as he had been the season before.

His knee issues led to a regression on the defensive end (or a return to the norm, if you didn’t buy the 2014 season). His shooting percentages slumped as well, particularly inside 10 feet where he got 64 percent of his looks (he shot 63.9 percent inside three feet and 44.5 percent from three to 10 feet, both down from the season before). This was one of the reasons the Hornets fell out of the playoffs.

Jefferson told Adi Joseph at the Sporting News the real problem last season was the lack of floor-spacing shooting around him.

“I think people don’t realize, 3-point shooting is what makes me who I am,” Jefferson says in that same training camp interview. “Last year, we didn’t have 3-point shooting. That’s why guys were able to sit down on me. I didn’t have it. Now we have guys who can spread the floor and make shots. Teams have to pick and choose their spots. You double me, bang — we’ve got an open shot. So having shooters around is music to my ears. That’s what lets me do what I do best.”


The Hornets went out and got Nicolas Batum and Jeremy Lin, both of whom will see heavy minutes on the wing and can knock down the three. Along with a healthy Kemba Walker, the floor should be better spaced for Jefferson, who has dropped weight and should bounce back to being devastating with his old-school game when he gets the ball on the left block. The Hornets should be scoring at an improved pace this season.

The question is what their formerly-solid defense will look like without the injured Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Think there are too many NBA preseason games? So do coaches

Nick Wiggins
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(AP) — Real basketball is almost here.

The NBA preseason schedule, with so many games that Gregg Popovich didn’t even bother going to San Antonio’s opener, is mercifully nearing its end.

It’s already over for Kobe Bryant, nursing an injury. LeBron James also was done last week.

Everyone would be, if some coaches had their way.

The schedule can become such a bore that Milwaukee’s Jason Kidd longs for the glory days of the lockout, when teams could squeeze in only two warmup games before the real ones arrived.

“No one complained,” Kidd said.

They do now.

The league allows for a maximum of eight preseason games, or nearly one-tenth of an entire regular season. But it’s condensed into a span of just three weeks, sometimes creating the necessity of back-to-backs that players dread when the games count, let alone when they’re just for practice.

Kidd, who was still playing when the 2011 lockout ended, favors four preseason games. Cleveland coach David Blatt agrees.

“I’ve expressed myself to the people that make those decisions on more than one occasion,” Blatt said. “My voice is only one, but it’s clearly my opinion that we should play four, maximum five preseason games and create a situation where we could have fewer back-to-backs and give players a little bit more time to rest and a little bit less wear and tear during the preseason.”

It’s not that coaches want to shorten the preseason itself. They like the month they get between the start of training camp and the beginning of the regular season.

It’s just that the games get in the way of the work.

“It’s something that with the CBA you can only have five days of training camp, and you can have two-a-days and even in that, one of the practices is only an hour with limited contact,” Nets coach Lionel Hollins said. “You need practice time. Guys need to be able to prepare and get comfortable with each other, get comfortable with whatever you’re trying to implement. It’s hard in the preseason when you’re playing and traveling like you do during the regular season. There’s really no need to.”

Well, there is to the organizations and the league. New rules can be tested, game-night operations ironed out, and of course, money can be made.

“I like the number of games. I love giving young players a chance to play. And off the court it lets us get our entertainment and presentation put together,” Dallas owner Mark Cuban said.

“It’s also the best and really only way to introduce NBA teams around the world.”

The NBA added preseason games in Canada and staged another exhibition in Brazil, seeking to drum up more interest before the All-Star Game and Olympics are held in those countries in 2016. And the two-game trip to China got a boost with the inclusion of the Charlotte Hornets, sending owner Michael Jordan to fans that are crazy about basketball.

The Hornets paid for it, though, on the back end with four games in six nights, a brutal stretch that would have coaches seething if the NBA had drawn it up.

But the teams handle their own preseason scheduling, determining how many games to play (there is no minimum) and how often. Coaches aren’t always thrilled with what they get. Hollins didn’t like that the Nets’ six-game slate included two games apiece against Atlantic Division rivals Boston and Philadelphia.

“I wouldn’t mind playing some of the Western teams that are close by, but it is what it is,” he said. “It’s easy to get to these games and it makes the travel different. It’s not a huge issue, but I would prefer to play some teams that you’re not playing all year long in your division, in your conference, that you’re battling with for playoff positions.”

Players don’t gripe as much, since most of the top ones don’t even consider playing in every game. Carmelo Anthony noted that the Knicks’ six-game schedule was better than the seven they played last year, then promptly sat out the second night of a back-to-back at Charlotte.

Popovich, who sits players out of regular-season games for rest, held Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili out of the Spurs’ opener at Sacramento along with himself, keeping to his policy of letting an assistant run the team each year in a preseason game.

The NBA would probably welcome a shorter preseason, since that could lengthen the regular-season calendar to create more rest opportunities for players, a goal of Commissioner Adam Silver. Silver said during All-Star weekend that coaches told him they don’t value the exhibition games as much as they once did, so perhaps those can be reduced and the overall preseason trimmed.

“I think that would be good for the game,” Blatt said. “I know that it would be good for the players and I also think it would be good for the fans.”

AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.