Kurt Helin

Report: Cavaliers, J.R. Smith remain millions apart, neither side blinking

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Consider this an update on where things stand with J.R. Smith and his contract impasse with the Cavaliers. Nothing new here, but it’s a concise recap of where things stand right now.

And they stand $4 million apart.

Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer did a Q&A with readers, and not-so-shockingly there were a lot of Smith questions. Starting with, what’s the deal?

The Cavs… are waiting for Smith to sign the deal they offered him. Smith is waiting for them to up their offer. The team offered somewhere between $10 million and $11 million, annually, while Smith is looking for more like $15 million annually. Isn’t this fun?

The Cavaliers have reportedly offered a deal in the four-year, $42 million range. That doesn’t work for Smith and his agent.

So, is there a timeline to get this done?

Good question. The answer is no. For example, the Cavs signed Dahntay Jones on the final day of the regular season last year. He remained on the team throughout the playoffs and played meaningful minutes in Game 6 of the Finals. Smith is an unrestricted free agent, but the Cavs have the right to give him a lucrative contract (go above the salary cap, or offer him above the veteran’s minimum) so long as he remains a free agent. Any deadline would be an arbitrary one. Either team owner Dan Gilbert draws a line in the sand, or Smith does. Or neither side does that and this thing gets worked out amicably.

Eventually, they will reach a deal, it just may take longer than LeBron James wants.

Remember that the Cavaliers already have the highest payroll in the NBA, $8.6 million into the luxury tax before signing Smith — throw in the repeater tax and a $10 million Smith contract costs the team $40 million. So they are hesitant. From the perspective of Smith — and LeBron — that’s not his problem. The owners are raking in money from the new television deal as well, the Cavs sell out everything at home and on the road, and the value of that franchise skyrocketed when LeBron returned — the players think Dan Gilbert has made plenty of money off them and shouldn’t balk at paying a little back to win.

Another team could sign Smith if they have the cap room (the Sixers, Nets, and Nuggets all have close to $15 million in space) but Smith said he isn’t looking around. This is between him and the Cavs.

The Cavaliers need J.R. Smith come the playoffs, but even if he were to miss an extended part of the regular season (which I don’t expect, but it’s a hypothetical) it wouldn’t matter — Cleveland would be the top team in the East with the best record. Smith’s agent (Rich Paul, who also reps LeBron) is a guy who likes to win every deal and will push this farther than most.

But eventually, a deal will get done, and this will all be looked back on as silly posturing.

Report: Bucks offered Carter-Williams to Kings for Ben McLemore, was shot down

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The Milwaukee Bucks are going to miss Khris Middleton and they know it. He was a rock-solid, 18-points-a-night, strong defender who was the glue that made the otherwise mismatched pieces in Milwaukee work. He is out for most if not all of the season following surgery on a torn hamstring, and the Bucks are trying to find a replacement. They got Michael Beasley, but “glue guy” would not be the best description of his game, so the Bucks keep looking for trades.

They tried to get Ben McLemore out of Sacramento, but that failed, according to a report from Marc Stein of ESPN.

The Bucks, sources say, have since offered former Rookie of the Year guard Michael Carter-Williams to the Sacramento Kings in a trade proposal for Ben McLemore and will continue to probe for potential deals after the Kings rebuffed that pitch for 2013’s No. 7 overall pick.

Good move by the Kings. Carter-Williams is what he is — an inefficient scorer who is turnover prone, but can make some plays on defense. He is an NBA rotation player, he has value, but is probably best suited as a backup point guard.

On the other side, while he has disappointed so far, a lot of teams still like McLemore’s potential, both as a shooter and on defense. There is a sense around the league that if he were put in a different situation, he might blossom more like what is expected of a No. 7 pick. The Kings are still convinced they are turning everything around (and keeping DeMarcus Cousins long term) and McLemore finding a role he thrives in under coach Dave Joerger is part of that. They kept the better player in the deal.

Any team that wants them can get Carter-Williams or Greg Monroe out of Milwaukee for a fair price — as has been the case since last summer. Still, both are on the Bucks, which shows the level of interest around the league. Still, expect the Bucks to keep trying to find a deal and maybe one of them at least moves later this season.

Report: Tristan Thompson to sit out next two preseason games with sore left foot

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The Cavaliers are calling this precautionary, which is code for “don’t worry about this.”

Cleveland big man Tristan Thompson will sit out the next two preseason games — Saturday against the Sixers and Monday vs. the Hawks — to rest a sore foot, according to Chris Haynes of ESPN.

Thompson sat out the Cavs preseason opener as well. “The Birdman” Chris Andersen will get the start.

No big deal in the preseason, only a moderate deal if this were the regular season. What matters in Cleveland is to have this team healthy, rested, and ready to go come April to defend their title. Everything before that is an extended preseason.

Sixers Jerryd Bayless’ wrist injury could keep him out to start regular season

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Jerryd Bayless is on track to be the Sixers starting point guard, a steadying veteran presence trying to organize a talented but young Philadelphia team.

Except, he may not be starting opening night due to injury.

Bayless suffered a wrist injury that may be more serious than first realized, reports Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The point guard had an MRI on Wednesday, and the test results weren’t favorable. The Sixers have been hush on the details, saying that it will make announcement in the near future. Bayless said Thursday night that he wasn’t sure what was wrong….

Asked if he would miss the games at the start of the season, he responded “Yeah, I might.”

With Bayless out, T.J. McConnell has started both preseason games at the point for Philly, with Sergio Rodriguez getting some run off the bench (and making some very clever passes). McConnell is a pass-first guy who has 25 points and 11 assists through two preseason games, plus he continues to play solid defense.

Still, the Sixers would be better off with Bayless. We will have an update when the Sixers decide it’s not the NHL playoffs and give us one.

Watch Joel Embiid make a between-the-legs dunk look easy

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Joel Embiid has played in a real NBA game. Well, sort of. He’s now played nearly 25 minutes across a couple of preseason games, shot 4-of-12 from the floor, grabbed seven rebounds, and blocked three shots. As we should expect, he looks like a rookie trying to get comfortable in an NBA setting.

But he has crazy athleticism for a big.

In warm-ups Thursday night he made the difficult look easy.


It’s going to be another long season in Philadelphia — especially with Ben Simmons out for an extended period — but watching Embiid develop is going to be part of the fun. There’s a lot of potential on the roster in Philly; it’s just going to take more time to see what they have.