Team USA’s Vegas showcase Thursday was an exhibition apparently played in a defense-free zone — even in the NBA All-Star Game guys try a little on the defensive end come the fourth quarter — so you get plays like this:
Michael Carter-Williams off the backboard to Blake Griffin for the finish.
You can say that’s not like real basketball, but for Team USA it does resemble the round-robin group stage of Olympic play.
LeBron James: “Our No. 1 objective right now” is to get Tristan Thompson signed
Tristan Thompson is a restricted free agent who wants a max contract extension. The Cleveland Cavaliers are offering less than that. Considerably less according to some reports. The two sides are at an impasse and have dug in.
“Our No. 1 objective right now is to sign Tristan,” James said Thursday at Cedar Point amusement park. “He’s a huge part of our team. Short term and long term he makes our team more dangerous….
“Things need to be worked out from his side and the Cavs, but we need him back,” James said. “I think our front office has done a great job this summer. The next step is to get Tristan done.”
This week Thompson’s agent ratcheted up the rhetoric, saying Thompson would consider playing next season for the $6.8 million qualifying offer but then would be gone for sure in 2017 as a restricted free agent. The two sides have until Halloween to figure out a contract extension or that is what happens.
This is an unprecedented situation because of the coming spike in the salary cap due to the flood of money from the new television deal about to wash over the league (the $70 million salary cap this season is expected to jump up to around $90 million next season). Thompson is a young big man with a skill — he is an excellent offensive rebounder. Last season he averaged 8.5 points and 8.0 rebounds a game, that bounced to 9.6 points and 10.8 rebounds in the postseason, where due to an injury to Kevin Love he was pressed into service.
Look at those numbers and you say Thompson is not a max player, he should take the reported less than $80 million on the table (he wants $94 million over five years). Most years, Thompson would have little leverage and probably takes the deal. There are no teams willing to give him a big offer sheet that would force the Cavaliers to match it, and all that money he would lose would not be something he could get back.
But this isn’t most years. Because the salary cap is going to spike next season, the max salary numbers will also and so Thompson can make his lost money back. What’s more, with an expected two-thirds of the teams in the league going to have max contract money available next summer and only a handful of decent free agents, some guys are going to get max deals that don’t necessarily deserve it. Thompson is one of those — he would get paid next summer.
The concern for the Cavaliers is the luxury tax. After re-signing Kevin Love and LeBron James, plus bringing in Mo Williams and others the Cavs are $4 million over the tax line right now. Look at it this way: If Thompson plays for the qualifying offer the Cavaliers tax bill would be around $13 million (in addition to the team’s salary), but pay him the max and that jumps to $35 million. And that is with J.R. Smith still out there unsigned and adding to the bill.
I expect the two sides to reach a deal before the deadline, maybe before camp. But because Thompson has some leverage it’s not a certainty, and Thompson’s agent can play the long game.
Andre Drummond went off, Klay Thompson had highlight of night in Team USA scrimmage
It was a meaningless exhibition that had less defense then your Saturday morning pickup game at the Y. Or a Chinese league game. Or a Summer League game. If you catch an NFL preseason game this weekend, you’ll see more defense. I think you get the point.
Still, there were some entertaining moments out of the USA Basketball exhibition game Thursday night in Las Vegas — and everybody got out healthy, which is what really matters.
Andre Drummond seemed to take things more seriously and had 27 points and 16 rebounds. I kept thinking of Apollo Creed’s trainer in Rocky: “He doesn’t know it’s a damn show! He thinks it’s a damn fight!” Aside that DeMarcus Cousins made some plays on his birthday, Victor Oladipo and Blake Griffin made some plays, and a good time was had by all.
The guy who had the roughest night? DeMar DeRozan. The Raptors wing missed a lot of jumpers on a night when nobody was contesting them. Then Klay Thompson did this to him.
I didn’t know Thompson had that in him, although he may want to work a little on the alley-oop pass at the end.
PBT’s Fast Break news, notes from around NBA: Dwight Howard to sit out Houston opener
Even in the middle of the off-season there are so many news and notes around the NBA we can’t keep up with all of them, so here is a collection of short thoughts and news items we couldn’t plug in anywhere else.
• We learned this week with the new NBA schedule that the Houston Rockets open the season Oct. 28 against the Denver Nuggets, but Dwight Howard will have to sit that game out as a suspension for crossing the flagrant foul threshold during last season’s playoffs.
• Stephen Jackson says he is the best NBA player alive — on the mic. And by the way, he says Kobe Bryant’s rap career was “horrible.” Which frankly may be kind.
• Jackson may be able to rap a little, but can he lip-sync to Whitesnake like Nick Young?
• The Atlanta Hawks are about to hire former NBA player Malik rose as their manager of basketball operations, according to multiple reports.
• How much trouble is the Hawks’ Mike Scott in for his arrest on drug charges? Like 25 years in jail worth of trouble. There were drugs in a car where he was a passenger that was stopped by police, then Scott told police the drugs were his and his brother (the driver) did not know about them.
• What will be interesting with the Scott case is how the Hawks and league handle it. He is innocent until proven guilty, and Georgia law calls for the drugs in his possession (marijuana and Molly) to be tested before a court date is set, which takes a couple months. Meaning after the NBA season starts. Do they play him?
• Michael Jordan testified in court this week against now-defunct Chicago-based supermarket chain Dominick’s. The chain ran a 2009 ad for steaks using a picture of Jordan without his permission — Jordan and his attorneies are incredibly protective of his brand, and he sued the chain for $10 million. The worst part, just two people used the coupons to get steaks at the stores. There is no verdict yet.
• Chicago is one of America’s great food towns, and the Bulls (and Blackhawks) are teaming up with Levy Restaurants (the “hospitality partner) at the arena) to bring some of that food to the United Center. Trendy Chicago eateries such as Big Star, Publican Quality Meats, Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap, Leghorn Chicken, Lillie’s Q, LQ Chicken Shack, Frontier, Lottie’s Pub and The Pony will have food at concession stands in the arena. This is brilliant. If you want a boiled hot dog and a Bud Light you can still get it, but now you have options.
• Levy runs the food operations at a number of NBA arenas, and they have been great at bringing in local flavor in a lot of places. Maybe the best arena food is at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where you can get grub from Brooklyn Bangers, Paisano’s Meat Market, Blue Marble Ice Cream, Café Habana, Buffalo Boss, and Nathan’s. That is a fantastic job of capturing local flavor.
• A little news about a former NBA player taking the cash in China.
Shavlik Randolph signed w Liaoning in China. 3yr deal worth $7-8M (depending on bonuses) w NBA out after each season, according to source.
Young NBA officials made less than some of the longer-tenured college referees under the previous contract, but the new deal reportedly has “substantial” raises for referees and the officials who staff the league’s replay center in Secaucus, N.J.
This is a win-win. As much as NBA officials are maligned by fans, they do impressive work at a very difficult job. Yes, we all want more transparency and training, but that is true of just about every gig around the league. There is not some better group you could plug-in as NBA officials, they are the best at their jobs.
For the NBA, this is one union dealt with and a deal in place. Now we can look ahead to 2017, when the owners and players can opt out of that CBA.