Report: Adidas makes $200 million offer to James Harden

23 Comments

James Harden has been a Nike guy. While he didn’t have a signature shoe — yet — the Nike Hyperchase was pretty much his shoe.

However, Nike let their contract with Harden lapse as they tried to renegotiate and Adidas — still looking for a fulcrum, a superstar to build brand around — have jumped in with a $200 million offer, reports Darren Rovell of ESPN.

The company has submitted a bid of $200 million over 13 years to sign Houston Rockets guard James Harden, sources told ESPN.com. Nike, whose deal with Harden recently expired, has until the end of next week to match the deal or lose him…

With incentives, if the deal is consummated, Harden could very well make more from Adidas in the coming years than the Rockets. Harden signed an $80 million contract extension with Houston in 2012 that goes through the 2017-18 season.

If they land him, Adidas will make Harden and his beard the face of their basketball shoe line. Nike has been incredibly successful building its brand around stars (and great shoes) and they have long had the best in the game inked, from Michael Jordan up through LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

Adidas has struggled to land stars and have that translate to shoe sales.

Despite having the NBA (jersey and apparel) deal, Adidas has slipped in recent years due to a lack of individual basketball stars. In 2012, the company signed a massive 14-year deal with Derrick Rose, only to see him miss plenty of action because of knee injuries. Its other star is Damian Lillard, whose Portland Trail Blazers aren’t really showing much promise. Endorser John Wall shows plenty of flash, but his first signature Adidas line fell relatively flat this year.

Adidas is giving up its uniform deal with the league after Nike came in with a massive bid to take it over.

While getting out of the uniform game, Adidas has shifted focus to finding the stars that can sell its shoes. They have Andrew Wiggins under contract and the Rookie of the Year shows potential to be a breakout star on an up-and-coming Minnesota team.

But Harden is an already established star with crossover appeal outside of just the basketball world — with his beard, sense of style, and being linked romantically to Khloe Kardashian, people know who Harden is who are not big hoops fans. Combine that with an MVP-level on-the-court game and this is a great gamble by Adidas.

Nike may match, Rovell says. Nike is still stung by getting outbid by Under Armour for Stephen Curry by $4 million, only to see him blow up into a superstar. They don’t want to lose another top NBA player.

Either way, Harden is about to get PAID.

Report: Dwight Howard to attend Team USA mini-camp after all

18 Comments

Apparently Dwight Howard still might want a trip to Rio next summer.

USA Basketball’s mini-camp is coming up and players who do not attend are not likely to be invited to the tryouts for the Rio Olympics next summer (unless your name is LeBron, then you can pretty much do what you want). A few players frustrated with the USA Basketball process and decisions — Damian Lillard and John Wall in particular — have been hesitant in saying they would go.

Dwight Howard, on the other hand, seems to have had a change of heart, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Howard, because of his defense and mobility, would stand a good chance to make Team USA because he fits Mike Krzyzewski’s style of play. Howard protects the paint, can cover out on the perimeter on defense, and knows how to run the floor and finish on offense. Tyson Chandler was on the roster in London, Howard could slide right into that slot.

Predicting who will be available a year from now is next to impossible, there’s an entire NBA season still to be played. But if you don’t show up to the mini-camp this season you probably miss out next year, so it doesn’t hurt to show up (even for guys like Kevin Love and Kevin Durant, who cannot participate due to injury). This is the smart play for Howard.

Jerry Colangelo sounds more forgiving of Kevin Love than Kevin Durant for skipping World Cup

13 Comments

Kevin Durant and Kevin Love committed two years ago to play in the 2014 World Cup, and the news thrilled USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo and Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Colangelo:

“This is a big day and a big announcement for USA Basketball,” program Chairman Jerry Colangelo said. “Because two of our players who have been so instrumental in our success in winning gold medals, Kevin Durant and Kevin Love, have officially announced that they will be part of our future going forward, including the World Cup next summer.”

“It means a great deal to us because of how committed they are to our program,” Colangelo said. “We’re very appreciative of their early commitment; we think it’ll certainly send a message to some of our other guys who have indicated they’re interested. So we’re very excited.”

Krzyzewski, referring first to Durant:

“The thing he told us last night, he says ‘Coach, I wanted to come here and look you in the eye and tell you that I’m doing it,” Krzyzewski said. “I get chills just thinking that a guy of his stature and his accomplishment, for these two guys to come here — it shows what they think of the program and the people involved to do it face to face, and we appreciate that very much.”

Durant and Love were part of the player pool released in January 2014. Durant even showed up to training camp in July, talking big about Team USA’s ability.

But Love withdrew shortly before the camp, and Durant followed suit a couple weeks later.

Colangelo, in a Q&A with Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports:

Q: How do you reflect on Kevin Durant and Kevin Love making a big public commitment to play on the 2014 World Cup team and then reneging on it?

Colangelo: In Kevin Love’s case, he really felt bad in not being there to participate after he said he would. That was more about advice he’s getting from legal counsel and his agent. That, too, is a variable. We have no control over that. If that happens next year with one or two players and they’re out, it’s not the end of the world. We have other players. The point is with the roster we have we can take hits like that and there are other guys to step in.

“Kevin Durant, a little bit of a different story. I think he was affected some by Paul George’s injury. I also think a lot of things were going on with Kevin Durant with his career and his contract. Things were changing. He wasn’t the same Kevin Durant who was wide-eyed and bushy-tailed when he first stepped on to the court for USA Basketball. He had a lot going on in his life. So when he said he was going to pull out, I wasn’t surprised. I could kind of see it coming. I didn’t see the same vigor. He was always so active and positive. He had a different look to him.

Love pulled out, because he was in trade limbo at the time. The Timberwolves and Cavaliers had agreed to a trade, but because Andrew Wiggins couldn’t be dealt so soon after signing a rookie-scale contract, everyone had to wait.

Durant initially cited a desire for rest, but he later admitted Paul George’s devastating injury freaked him out.

Both players functionally withdrew because they feared getting injured and it harming their NBA careers – and that’s fine.

I’m not sure why Colangelo is treating the decisions so differently.

We obviously don’t know everything that happened behind the scenes. Colangelo said Love was near tears when delivering the news to him. Perhaps, Durant didn’t handle the issue as gracefully.

But Colangelo also forgave Love because his agent advised him not to risk injury at that point. Does Colangelo think Durant withdrew without any outside put, though? Every NBA player who participates in USA Basketball has someone telling him it’s not worth the injury risk. It’s up to the player to determine when that advice is actually worth heeding.

Durant and Love reached the same conclusion: Playing in the 2014 World Cup wasn’t worth the injury risk. If there are significant differences in those decisions, I don’t see them. Love shouldn’t get any more of a break from USA Basketball because he didn’t want to jeopardize his exit from Minnesota than Durant should get scrutinized by USA Basketball for wanting to remain healthy to help the Thunder win the 2015 championship.

Reading between the lines – and it doesn’t take much supposing – Colangelo seems to view it differently. Maybe he has reasons we can’t see.

Either way, this probably won’t keep Durant off the 2016 Olympic team if he wants to play. His talent gives him a lot more leeway than Love. Even if Colangelo downgrades his overall opinion of Durant based on his World Cup withdrawal, it’s hard to see Durant not ranking as one of the 12 most-deserving candidates for Rio.

Thunder sign domestic draft-and-stash pick Josh Huestis

1 Comment

A year ago, the Thunder selected Stanford forward Josh Huestis with the 29th overall pick, and he quickly became a pioneer in NBA circles. He was essentially a domestic draft-and-stash player — the Thunder didn’t offer him a rookie scale contract after drafting him. Instead, they assigned him for the entire season to the Oklahoma City Blue, so they wouldn’t burn a roster spot or salary cap space on him.

Now, a year later, they signed him to a standard four-year rookie scale deal, the team announced in a press release:

The Oklahoma City Thunder have signed forward Josh Huestis to a contract, it was announced today by Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“We are excited to add Josh to our roster as he allows us to continue to increase our depth through his athleticism and versatility,” Presti said. “Josh knows our culture and our organization as a result of his time with the Blue and we look forward to his continued development with the Thunder.”

Huestis likely won’t play much — he plays the same position as Kevin Durant, who is expected to be healthy. But the Thunder took an unorthodox approach with drafting him in the first round and then sending him down to the D-League. If they’re happy with his development and decide the experiment was a success, it could be the first in a trend.

Report: Serge Ibaka not yet cleared to play after March surgery

4 Comments

Serge Ibaka had knee surgery in mid-March and was expected to be sidelined four to six weeks.

Nineteen weeks later, the Thunder power forward – who was named to Team Africa for the NBA’s first exhibition game on the continent – reportedly still isn’t ready to play.

Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports:

That’s a little concerning, though it shouldn’t cause panic for a couple reasons:

1. There’s still plenty of time before training camp opens.

2. Ibaka’s originally scheduled return was right around playoff time. There should be a higher standard of clearance for an exhibition game than a postseason game. It’s unclear whether Ibaka could play if this contest had higher stakes.

Still, it’s obviously not great news that Ibaka isn’t cleared.

The Thunder have been sidetracked in recent years by injuries to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Ibaka isn’t at their level, but his defense and floor spacing means a lot to Oklahoma City. Ibaka is just a tick below All-Star level.

If everyone is healthy, the Thunder should contend for a championship. Once again, though, the status of at least one of their top players is in doubt.

At least, this time, it’s in the summer rather than spring.