Author: Kurt Helin

Cleveland Cavaliers v Dallas Mavericks

Reports: Luol Deng agrees to two years, $20 million deal with Miami


Miami isn’t going to be the title contenders they were last season, but they are going to be good. And interesting.

Luol Deng, who had been negotiating with Heat for days but was trying to leverage discussions from Atlanta and Dallas into more, has settled on a deal with Miami, something first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

After losing LeBron James, the Miami Heat have reached agreement with free-agent forward Luol Deng on a two-year, $20 million contract, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Deng will likely hold a player option on the 2015-16 season, a source said.

Remember that Deng reportedly turned down a three-year, $30 million extension with the Bulls.

You certainly can’t say Miami has had a good offseason, but Pat Riley has bounced back about as well as can be expected.

The Heat will roll out a starting five of Norris Cole/Shabazz Napier, Dwyane Wade (he will re-sign), Deng, Josh McRoberts, and an overpaid but effective Chris Bosh. That’s a playoff team and a tough out in the first round at least in Miami.

Deng is a strong defender who can get you points as the roll man or cutting off the ball. As a third scoring option he can work.

Report: Dallas, Charlotte only other serious suitors for Lance Stephenson so far outside Indiana

Lance Stephenson, Jared Sullinger, Jordan Crawford

While Lance Stephenson thought he was an All-Star, a lot of executives saw a guy of average efficiency — some nights triple doubles but more nights a lot of missed shots and opportunities — and his blowing-in-the-ear antics and thought, “the price is going to be too high for the risk.”

Indiana made its offer — five years, $44 million.

Stephenson wants more and is betting if he is patient better offers will come in now that the market is shaking out and teams missed on LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. However, so far those offers are not as plentiful has expected, reports Sean Deveney at the Sporting News.

According to the source, the remaining serious suitors for Stephenson are expected to be Charlotte, Dallas — if and when the Rockets match the Mavs’ offer sheet for Chandler Parsons — and Indiana. Several teams mentioned in connection with Stephenson, including Boston, Chicago and the Lakers, have not been serious in their pursuit, the source said, while others could register late interest.

Stephenson, 23, has an all-around game and averaged 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists a game last season, but his pedestrian PER of 14.7 gives some indications of why there are misgivings about his efficiency. Not to mention maturity.

But he’s a potential young star — Dallas and Charlotte need that.

Both also likely would try to reduce their risk with a shorter deal and more money per year, something Dallas is reportedly considering if they make an offer. Would Stephenson take two years and a little more than $20 million, or would he want the lower per year money but security of the Pacers five-year offer?

Look for the Stephenson rumor mill to start to heat up in the coming days.

Cavaliers coach Blatt: Wiggins “not going anywhere”

Milwaukee Bucks v Cleveland Cavaliers

From even before LeBron James made his homecoming to Cleveland official, the rumors were swirling (if you listened to Cleveland talk radio it was already done) — Kevin Love was going to be traded to the Cavaliers to team up with James and Kyrie Irving. Love is good with this idea. Dan Gilbert forms his own big three.

But there is no way Flip Saunders of Minnesota is sending Love to Cleveland without no. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins coming back the other way. Buzz around the league is it most likely takes Wiggins, a couple future first round picks and another player (not Anthony Bennett, more like Dion Waiters) to get a deal done.

However, Cleveland has no plans (so far) to throw Wiggins in the mix. New Cavs coach Dave Blatt said so Saturday in Las Vegas, as reported by ESPN:

“There’s no reason or cause for worry on his part because Andrew’s not going anywhere, as far as I know and as far as the club has expressed,” Blatt told reporters Saturday following the Cavaliers’ Summer League practice in Las Vegas.

How much of that is posturing remains to be seen.

Flip Saunders is willing to play the long game and let Love’s agents and time put pressure on other teams to up their offers. The Warriors still refuse to put Klay Thompson in a deal, now Wiggins with the Cavaliers. Saunders can wait them and everyone else out at this point. He has the best asset in these mixes.

To me, if you’re Cleveland and you really want to have a title shot for the next five years (at least) you throw Wiggins in the mix and get Love. Wiggins could turn out to be special, but we already know Love is with a special player with a skill set hard to match — a sharpshooting big man who is a beast on the boards. You need to put a good defensive center next to him, but Love is an elite talent. Maybe Wiggins will be that someday. (I feel the same way about Golden State not throwing Thompson in the mix.)

But for now Cleveland holds firm — no Wiggins. And Minnesota waits.

It’s official: Carmelo Anthony announces he will remain face of New York Knicks

Utah Jazz v New York Knicks

“At the end of the day that’s my first priority, to stay. That’s my first priority. My priority is to figure it out, let’s figure it out together… I came to New York, and I said it before, I wanted to retire a Knick. That’s not something I would bull—- with, I said it, I meant it.”
—Carmelo Anthony, speaking to PBT at All-Star Game

A lot happened since Anthony said that back in February: The Knicks stacked up losses like a child does legos and missed the playoffs, the Knicks turned the franchise keys over to Phil Jackson, and then Anthony met with Jackson as well as representatives from the Lakers, Bulls, Rockets and Mavericks to be recruited as a free agent.

But in the end Carmelo Anthony came back to the Knicks, making it official on his Web site Sunday morning. Here is the statement from his Web site.

“A few years ago I dreamed of coming back to New York City, the place of my birth, and on February 23, 2011 that became a reality. This organization has supported me and in return, I want to stay and build here with this city and my team. At this pivotal juncture in my career, I owed it to myself and my family to explore all of the options available to me. Through it all, my heart never wavered.

“During this journey I met with some quality organizations who have amazing talent and leadership. I thank them for their consideration, belief in my talent, and opportunity to imagine the possibilities.

“I will always remember this chapter in my life. In the end, I am a New York Knick at heart. I am looking forward to continue my career in Orange & Blue and to work with Phil Jackson, a champion who builds championship teams. Madison Square Garden is the mecca of basketball and I am surrounded by the greatest fans in the world.”

Anthony was always able to get more money in New York and that was going to be part of the attraction. The Bulls certainly offered a better chance to win right now, but Anthony would have had to leave more than $40 million on the table to do it.

What Anthony wanted from the Knicks was a plan, a path to contending. They gave him Phil Jackson. That was enough (and if Jackson can keep James Dolan away from basketball decisions he’s worth the $12 million a year).

More than that, it was New York that Anthony could not leave.

He grew up a Knicks fans and he fought to get traded here. His wife loves New York. He likes raising his children there.

And he likes being the face of the Knicks — it is a passionate and smart fan base that gets the game and appreciates effort and skill. They can be harsh, they want to win and be entertained, but they are a special group. The energy in Madison Square Garden before a Knicks game is unlike anything else in basketball.

For likely the rest of his career, Anthony will be the face of that. Which has always been what he wanted most.

Wizards bring in Pierce to replace Ariza, but real dream is Kevin Durant in two years

Oklahoma City Thunder v Orlando Magic

LeBron James just left the only place he’s known real success in the NBA because of the draw of home.

The Wizards draw hope from that — Kevin Durant is a Washington D.C. native, and just happens to be a free agent in two summers.

It’s part of what is behind the Wizards not ponying up everything Trevor Ariza asked and why Paul Pierce is taking his place on a two-year deal for less money. J. Michael of CSNWashington lays it out.

Trevor Ariza left for $8 million per year to the Houston Rockets, which is surprising to some in receiving a four-year deal. The reason the Wizards passed? Persons with knowledge of the situation told that he wanted $10 million and the Wizards wouldn’t budge because they have an eye toward 2016 free agency and wanted to keep flexibility with the salary cap. In other words, Kevin Durant.

It was the years as much or more than the money that gave Washington pause. If you just read that last paragraph shaking your head, know that the Wizards are not kidding here.

But make no mistake, this isn’t conjecture anymore. It’s real. The hiring of David Adkins, who coached Durant in high school, from the University of Maryland’s women’s team as assistant coach to player development for the Wizards this past week isn’t a coincidence.

The building blocks are being put in place now. Ariza is off the books and Porter, who is playing on a rookie scale contract, is a much cheaper option. Nene, who will make $26 million for the next two seasons, will be off the books as well.

Let’s be clear, there is no way to have any idea what newly minted MVP Kevin Durant will do in 2016 — the smart money right now would be on him staying in Oklahoma City, and if they win a title those odds of staying go up exponentially. However two years is an eternity in the NBA.

Durant is such a transcendent player that no matter how long the odds this is a good risk for the Wizards, they should be making moves with thoughts of 2016 cap space. Durant is in the same class with LeBron in this sense (LeBron  also will be a free agent in 2016 but is almost certainly not leaving Cleveland again). These are guys who once on your team make you instant contenders, so if they are coming on the market you prepare yourself. The Wizards are not going to be the only team doing this.

But the Wizards can count on the power of home.