Author: Kurt Helin

LeBron James, Erik Spoelstra, Pat Riley

Report: LeBron James to meet with Pat Riley Wednesday in Las Vegas


Maybe, finally, this will lead to a little clarity.

NBA free agency has been bottlenecked waiting for LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony to make their decisions, which will open up the secondary markets and after that the dominos will start to fall quickly.

LeBron James is set to meet with Pat Riley and talk about his future with the Heat on Wednesday, reports Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

Riley will be able to point to the signings of Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger. Not exactly huge stars, but Miami’s big three of LeBron, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade aren’t leaving so much money on the table as to allow Riley to go after the big, more expensive names. Those two are signs of a deeper bench Riley plans to build with the money he does have (whatever it ends up being exactly). Miami’s front office remains confident LeBron will return.

There has been a lot of momentum toward LeBron returning to Cleveland as the prodigal son. There are certainly basketball reasons to do so — Kyrie Irving is better than anyone on the Heat and with Andrew Wiggins and a host of recent and future high picks they can put together an interesting, albeit young team. Part of the momentum and rumors also have been fueled by LeBron’s agent suggesting that the Cavaliers can pull this off. There are also a lot of people close to LeBron who miss what they had in Cleveland — LeBron and his crew had full run of everything in the Cleveland organization, Miami is not that way at all. Miami is Pat Riley and a very solid structure. Some around LeBron miss the old days, the power.

The question is: Does LeBron?

He’s a far more mature person at 29 than he was at 25 when he left Cleveland — he’s married, far more stable, and he has a couple of rings and four trips to the Finals. He’s been through a lot and has grown from it.

He makes his own decisions, he sees both what Miami has given and can do for him and potential in Cleveland.

The question is what does LeBron want.

Luol Deng patiently considering all options, even return to Chicago. Although that’s not likely.


Like Pau Gasol and Paul Pierce and a host of others, Luol Deng is considering his options and waiting.

Remember he turned down three years, $30 million from the Bulls and now he wants more — certainly more years, ideally more money per year (but not less). He saw what Josh Smith and Andre Iguodala got and wants to be in that ballpark. Miami couldn’t give that to him, so they are out.

Atlanta might as they are the team making the hardest run at him in recent days, but also in the mix potentially are the Clippers (unlikely sign-and-trade), Wizards, Mavericks, Raptors and Lakers are all lurking. Deng knows that once the LeBron James/Carmelo Anthony/Chris Bosh players start to make their moves other offers will open up for him.

What about the Bulls? Deng’s agent told Steve Aschburner of it could happen.

“It appeared uglier than it was,” said agent Ron Shade (about Deng’s trade out of Chicago to Cleveland), who works with Chicago-based Herb Rudoy. “Luol is a professional, so what happened if January is forgiven but not forgotten….

“Like I say, Luol is a professional,” Shade said. “He will hear every reasonable option and give it serious thought. We won’t close any door on that possibility at all.”

The problem with Deng to the Bulls is finding a way for both sides to save face.

But that three-year, $30 million number, made so public, has become a set point that complicates the situation. If Deng accepts it now, some will characterize that as “crawling back” on the Bulls’ terms. If Paxson and Forman sweeten the deal, it might be portrayed that they “caved” and are scrambling to make up for their inability to woo Anthony.

More than likely Deng will not return to the Windy City, making the questions where, and for how much, will he sign.

Deng is waiting it out. As are we all.

Outgoing Bucks owner Herb Kohl takes care of club employees on way out door

Terry Stotts Press Conference

The Bucks new owners are still learning something about handling things with class.

The Bucks’ former owner, Herb Kohl, has the classy part down cold.

Kohl is on his way out the door after owning the team for 29 years (selling the team for a cool $550 million), and in pure basketball terms it wasn’t the best nearly three decades — eight playoff trips in the last 23 years, no Finals. However, he handled himself with dignity through all of it. And that continues as he nears stepping down (the other owners just have to approve the sale, something expected soon).

As a parting thank you to long-time Bucks employees, Kohl gave out generous checks. I mean really generous. Gery Woelfel has the details at the Journal Times (hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie).

You may have read where Kohl gave gifts of $500 to employees at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, where the Bucks played their home games.

What you haven’t read, though, is that Kohl’s generosity extended much further. He also bestowed significant financial gifts to others in the organization, from secretaries to sales personnel to basketball operations officials. The amount Kohl gave those employees varied and was based on different criterion, not the least of which was longevity with the organization.

Some Bucks employees received $40,000 while others received nearly $100,000. And there were even some individuals who were given checks that one person close to the situation described as “life changing.”

We applaud you Kohl. Well done sir.

As a reminder, as part of selling the team Kohl set it up for the Bucks not to leave Milwaukee — if the new owners can’t get a new arena deal done, the league can buy back the team and re-sell it rather than let it be moved.

Report: Spurs, Bulls, Lakers, maybe Thunder in mix for Pau Gasol as he waits

Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets

Pau Gasol is waiting. Like the rest of us.

Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James have largely bottlenecked free agency as they take their time making their decisions — maybe because they want to play together. Doesn’t matter the reason, they have the right to make their own decisions on their own schedule. It just leaves everyone hanging.

Like Gasol. A host of quality suitors are targeting him, with various contract offers, but he’s not moving until those two do. If Anthony goes to Los Angeles Gasol likely follows, if not… who knows. Adrian Wojnarowski has the latest.

About the Thunder, signals are mixed apparently, reports Dave McMenamin of

The Thunder and Spurs reportedly have the same mid-level exception offer ($5.3 million a year to start, max four years), so for Gasol that would be a matter of fit. Reportedly he was impressed that both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook pitched him personally. It’s very easy to picture Gasol working well in the Spurs system and making them even more difficult to beat.

The Bulls, if they don’t land Anthony, could be a great fit with him at the four, and they will be contenders if Derrick Rose can stay on the court. Plus the Bulls can potentially offer more money.

He loves Los Angeles and playing next to Kobe Bryant, if Anthony comes it’s expected Gasol returns. The Knicks would like to get in the game but need to clear out enough salary to even offer the mid-level exception money.

Gasol has options because he’s still as skilled a big man as their is in the game — other teams realize his slide the last couple years was more about how Mike D’Antoni used him than his skills deteriorating. Look at the caliber of teams targeting him — they get what has happened and that he could be a good value addition.

However, Gasol is in no rush to choose one of those options. Just like LeBron and ‘Melo.

LeBron to Cleveland rumors have bettors putting money on Cavs to win it all next season (and Vegas backtracking)

Detroit Pistons v Cleveland Cavaliers

Winning at sports gambling is about taking smart risks, ones that could pay off with a nice reward. Find the good odds where you think the bookmakers (or the betting public pushing them) is off target then jump on it.

After the NBA Finals last season, when future bet odds on next season’s NBA champion came out, the Cleveland Cavaliers were between 40-1 and 60-1, depending on where you looked. Then the LeBron James return to Cleveland rumors started picking up steam — and gamblers saw the value and started putting money on the Cavs while the odds were still high.

Doesn’t matter that LeBron has yet to make a decision (and the Heat remain confident), and it doesn’t matter that if LeBron picks Cleveland that is a young, untested team that may not be able to win it all year one. LeBron instantly makes any team a contender and if you can place money on a potential contender at long odds, it’s worth the risk.

People did, particularly fans (these tend not to be large, professional bets), and Vegas is freaking out just a little, as David Purdum wrote for ESPN.

More bets have been placed on the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the 2015 NBA title than on any other team at the Las Vegas Superbook.

“They are our biggest liability right now,” said MGM VP of Race and Sports Jay Rood. “We took a dime ($1,000) on them at 40-1.”

The Cavs are currently down to 10-1 at the MGM.

For bookmakers, sports gambling is about covering their risks, and the Cavs have become a risk to cost them money.

You can find the odds now and place a bet at online casinos as well as some spots in Vegas, although a number of casinos have taken down NBA futures betting until free agency plays out (some casinos, such as the Wynn, have had that as their policy for years).

If LeBron jumps to Cleveland, the Cavs still are not likely to be favorited against the best of the West (and maybe Chicago, depending upon who they do or do not land in free agency). That according to Las Vegas Superbook assistant manager and head NBA oddsmaker Jeff Sherman, speaking in that same ESPN piece.

If James were return to Cleveland, where he spent the first seven seasons of his NBA career, Sherman said he would adjust the Cavs’ odds to around 8-1.

“They are such a young team,” Sherman said of the Cavaliers. “They would be better positioned for the next season than this upcoming one.”