LeBron James

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With Nikola Pekovic still hurt, Flip Saunders says Karl-Anthony Towns could start. Or Gorgui Dieng.

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Minnesota is going to be a fascinating team to watch this season, just because coach Flip Saunders has a lot of options with his rotation. He has said he plans to start Kevin Garnett at the four, then when he rests they can go with Gorgui Dieng or small with Shabazz Muhammad.

Then at the five there’s a solid scoring big in Nikola Pekovic who was an anchor up front until he got injured, and now there’s No. 1 pick Karl-Anthony Towns who needs time at that spot.

Zach Lowe at Grantland asked the million dollar question: So Flip, does Towns get the start?

Well, Pek is still hurt. And we have another guy who isn’t bad in Gorgui Dieng.

First off, no coach is going to answer that question in August, unless the question is “do you still plan to start LeBron James?” If a coach can create competition in camp to push guys, he’s going to do just that.

But as mentioned above, Saunders has options. He can start KG and Towns, and then go small off the bench with Dieng and Muhammad. Then he can mix and match early in the season to see what pairings work and in what situation. As the last couple NBA Finals champs have shown us, versatility matters.

There is one other Timberwolves question that influences all of this: Do they have enough shooting to give these bigs space to work? Opponents will be more than happy to let Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, and maybe even Kevin Martin (he’s got to prove he’s healthy) to beat you from the perimeter, or especially from three. The Timberwolves are not exactly loaded with shooters.

Minnesota is going to be a fascinating team to watch next season, for a few reasons.

Nets finally taking responsible path to rebuilding, don’t expect another spending spree next summer

Brooklyn Nets Deron Williams Paul Pierce Kevin Garnett
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A few years back, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov knew he needed a winning team to open the Barclays’ Center, a team that could get New York’s attention. He ordered his GM to spend without concern for the luxury tax, he openly laughed at that demarcation line. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, trading for Joe Johnson, and the list goes on — Brooklyn bought a pretty good team, one that made the second round of the playoffs, but at a ridiculous price tag.

Now, times have changed — the Nets waived Deron Williams, traded Garnett, let Pierce bolt to the other coast, and made moves to get under (or at least close to) the luxury tax. Prokhorov is sending out letters to season ticket holders touting a younger, more athletic team. They are going to try and build in a more traditional way. Well, except without draft picks for a while.

That means next summer, when they have cap space again, don’t expect the Nets to spend like mad on one big free agent, reports Nets Daily.

One league source told NetsDaily it will be a long time, if ever, before the Nets pay the luxuy tax again. Part of his thinking is that they will go into next summer with $40 million in cap space, enough to pursue a star or more likely, pay two of three good players … some of whom may be their own. The other reason is they think with a longer term strategy and some good fortune, they can win while being fiscally frugal. They’re putting a LOT of stock in continuity, particularly with the coaching staff. (The insider said that he could foresee the Nets maxing out only one of their current playes, Bojan Bogdanovic, two years from now if he breaks out.)

They are going to act like 29 other teams.

The general rule of thumb around the league is not to go into the tax — especially avoid the dreaded repeater tax (for being above the tax line three out of four years) — unless you are in a window of title contention. The Cavaliers are about to do it to keep LeBron James happy, but they should — with him they are contenders for the next five years (at least). But you don’t  see even the big market money machines like the Lakers and Knicks willing to spend way over the line right now, at least until they get somewhere near contender status again. You can’t just buy a team.

What this likely means for the Nets is some short term pain. They certainly still have the talent to make the bottom half of the playoffs in the East — they did spend this summer to retain Brook  Lopez and Thaddeus Young — but the rebuilding is going to take a little time. Especially considering all the draft picks they sent away during the “win now” era (Boston will be picking for the Nets a lot in the coming years).

The Nets have learned how to build patiently, while their owner has learned how to dodge marriage promises. They may be getting things right, but there is still a price to be paid for their win-now era.

Gilbert Arenas on LeBron James: “James isn’t a #1 option..and yes I (didn’t stutter)”

LeBron James
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Gilbert Arenas took to Instagram to critique the best player walking the face of the earth — LeBron James — and, for the most part, there was nothing but praise.

this person comes around once in a blue moon…a man whos so physically gifted he could walk into any sport and be a HOF’ER off his natural (God given ability) last person who was this gifted in sports might have been #BOJackson

Nobody sane really questions that LeBron rivals Wilt Chamberlain as maybe the two most physically gifted players — guys far ahead of their peers — in NBA history. But we are at the point in LeBron’s career where we are comparing him to the other All-Time greats and starting to figure where he ranks in the pantheon (a process that is ongoing as LeBron is still in his peak, his legacy still forming).

That’s where Arenas dropped the bomb.

James isn’t a #1 option..and yes I (didn’t stutter) he lacks #selfishness so he will always need a go to guy like wade was or kyrie.. he lacks what jordan and kobe were..great 1 on 1 players… he needs a pure scorer beside him so he can carry the TEAM load…he gets bashed alot by media becuz he doesn’t take over like #MJ or #KB but #LBJ is MAGIC with Jordan like athleticism..so he walks into stats without trying and when forced he will give u 41 12 8…the finals was the first time in his career he was physically pushed to the limit becuz he had no one to defur to

I think Arenas has a narrow definition of a No. 1 option.

Which was evident in his game, but that’s another story.

Arenas seems to defined a No. 1 player as a guy who can take over a game in isolation settings — that is debatable in any era of basketball but particularly now in the Thibodeau/overload era where defenses stack up against isolations. Still LeBron does pretty well in those settings. Last season (per NBA.com/Stats), James ran the second most isolation sets in the NBA to James Harden (at 458) and scored .93 points per play on them. That’s not mind-blowing, but it’s in the top 25 percentile. He is very effective in that setting.

What makes LeBron different is that ability to pass out of that isolation set and find the right player at the arc or making a cut. His passing ability opens up the floor.

Arenas then says the thing that really allows us to poke a hole in his argument.

like u ppl have no idea what he could do if he had (1) season just 1 selfish season like kobe did in 2005-06 he will avg 40+ 11 9 and no one could do shit about it…it’s sad the world wont get to see Who I’m talking about becuz his legacy is built on winning.

The problem with LeBron is he wants to win more than rack up numbers? Not sure most of us see that as a flaw.

Arenas ends with more praise for LeBron.

this man could be the second best 3rd for sure player to ever play when it’s all said and done around 2020+and he didn’t even tap into his ability to be GREATEST..

I’m not sure where he ends up on the all-time rankings (which are subjective in the first place), but putting rings above numbers will not hurt his standing in my mind.

Jerry Colangelo: LeBron James has spot in 2016 Olympics if he wants it

Olympics Day 16 - Basketball
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USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo believes LeBron James wants to be part of Team USA.

Does that mean LeBron – who turns 31 before the 2016 Olympics and has significant mileage – is a lock for Rio?

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

Q: Do you expect LeBron James to be playing for USA in the Olympics next year?

Colangelo: He is one of the greatest players of all time. If he wants to be on the team, how is he not going to be on the team? It’s really not my call. It’s really his call. If that is still important to him and what he wants to do, I truly believe that’s what he wants, than he will be there.

Q: Has James said he will be playing in the 2016 Rio Olympics?

Colangelo: I think he is intent on wanting to play for USA Basketball and be in the Olympics next year.

The first step is attending Team USA’s minicamp next month, which Colangelo has deemed mandatory for Olympic inclusion. LeBron doesn’t have to play, and I doubt he would. He just has to show up.

That will buy him time to make this decision, and as we all expected, it’s his decision. LeBron has been too good and has been too important to USA Basketball to leave him home. Even as the talent pool rises, LeBron is a lock – if he wants to play.

Highlight reel: Best assists of 2014-15 NBA season

Detroit Pistons v San Antonio Spurs
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On a slow summer day, here is a little something to remind you of the 2014-15 season — and whet your appetite for the coming season this fall.

Stephen Curry, Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, LeBron James all show off their passing skills, but it may be Manu Ginobili who steals the show. That guy is still a wizard with the ball.