LeBron James

2015 NBA Finals - Game Three

Report: LeBron James OKs Mike Miller trade

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The last time one of LeBron James’ teams dumped his friend Mike Miller to save money – the Heat via amnesty – it bothered LeBron and contributed to his leaving.

Should the Cavaliers, who just sent Miller to the Trail Blazers in the Brendan Haywood trade, worry?

Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal:

Including Miller in this trade was a pure salary dump, but at least Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert has gone out of his way to spend money in many other situations. In fact, this trade gives the Cavaliers a trade exception that could allow them to spend a lot more on this roster down the road.

That should keep LeBron happy.

For Miller, a few teams are interested. But it’s hard to see the 35-year-old carving out much of a role anywhere this season. He might have just hit that point in the aging curve.

Report: Thunder, Grizzlies, Mavericks interested in Mike Miller

2015 NBA Finals - Game Two
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Mike Miller signed with Cleveland for last season following LeBron James north from Miami. That season didn’t work out the way Miller wanted. Off the court, he was an important part of the locker room chemistry, but on the court he fell out of favor early with the Cavs coaching staff and averaged 2.1 points per game during the season. In the Finals, it took a lot of injuries for David Blatt to call Miller’s number, and even then it was in small doses.

Sunday the Cavaliers traded Miller to Portland. However, the Trail Blazers are expected to buy Miller out; they are a rebuilding team who made that trade to get the picks, not an aging veteran.

Once that buyout happens, where might Miller the free agent land? Marc Stein of ESPN had some potential early answers.

The Thunder? Interesting, in that Miller played for new OKC coach Billy Donovan in college and the two are still close to this day. Miller and Kevin Durant are tight.

But here’s the problem: The Thunder already have a roster of 14 guaranteed contracts and have yet to sign first-round pick Josh Huestis. That’s 15, the max allowed. The Thunder don’t have space for him. Memphis is at 15 as well. Someone (not me) must have pointed this out to Stein.

He wants to be on a contender, and he wants to play. The most likely way that happens is Miller starts the season on the NBA sidelines, but when injuries flare up on a team his phone rings.

What he can bring that team at this point on the court is up for debate. But the timing of this move likely leaves him standing and without a chair when the music stops and the season tips off.

Damian Lillard says he likely will not take part in USA Minicamp, “I don’t know why I would go”

Utah Jazz v Portland Trail Blazers
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The list of players expected to be at Team USA’s mini-camp in Las Vegas in August is impressive and could reach near 40 players trying to gain favor for a potential Rio Olympics spot. Blake Griffin, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Kevin Love, Andre Drummond and many others are expected to take to the court. Meanwhile big names like Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony will be there, but with limited if any participation.

Just don’t expect to see Damian Lillard.

The Trail Blazers’ guard was the final cuts from Team USA last year before the FIBA World Cup, Kyrie Irving that spot, and he seems a little bitter about this. He was on the Jody Mac show on CBSSports Radio Saturday and had this exchange:

Jody Mac: Are you headed to Vegas next month?
Lillard: Probably not.
Jody Mac: Why Not?
Lillard: I did it the last few summers and last summer I didn’t make it. I don’t know why I would go. After I got cut last summer, I don’t think I’m a part of it.

ESPN’s Marc Stein reported that Lillard was expected to be there, although it doesn’t sound like it from this interview.

Lillard’s problem is the NBA, and USA Basketball, is deep with elite point guards right now (Curry, Irving and Derrick Rose made the roster that won gold last year). While Lillard was on the bubble last summer remember that Durant, Anthony, LeBron James, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, not to mention point guards Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul didn’t show up for that event. Every one of them knocks Lillard another peg down the ladder (even though some play different positions, LeBron and Durant certainly are ball handlers).

Lillard can do what he wants, he’s under no obligation or commitment. But is this the kind of attitude that’s going to make free agents the next few years say “I want to go to Portland to play with this guy?” It probably doesn’t sway guys much, but it might make a few think about it.

Report: Orlando to acquire Shabazz Napier from Miami in trade

Sacramento Kings v Miami Heat
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The guy Miami drafted in 2014 because LeBron James wanted him (Pat Riley tried to deny that), then LeBron bolted town. Napier struggled as a rookie in Miami. He averaged 5.1 points, 2.5 assists, 2.2 rebounds a game. He was given a real chance to backup Goran Dragic after the trade deadline, but quickly fell out of favor and had appeared once in the Heat’s last dozen games before he was shut down for the season due to a sports hernia.

Now he is on his way to Orlando. The Magic are finalizing a trade to get Nappier, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo Sports.

The Orlando Magic will acquire Miami Heat guard Shabazz Napier for a protected future second-round pick, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Include the luxury tax and the Heat save $5.8 million on this deal, plus they had 17 guarnateed contracts, so now they are only one over the max. That said, the Heat gave up two second rounders to get Napier, now get just one back in this deal.

The Magic are going to give Napier a chance as a third point guard behind Elfrid Payton and C.J. Watson.

They didn’t give up anything of note for him it’s a reasonable gamble for the Magic. And if you want some hope Magic fans, watch this video of Napier in Summer League. (Second-year guys tend to do better there, but still this is a ray of hope.)

[nbcsports_video src=https://www.youtube.com/embed/kVQ4El-8DT8?rel=0 width=620 height=349

Blake Griffin, Stephen Curry among latest big names headed to Team USA mini-camp

New Zealand v USA
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Guys want to play in the Olympics.

There is injury risk — just ask Paul George. Players don’t get as much summer downtime to rest their bodies in the offseason. It doesn’t matter. The chance to represent the USA — and grow their personal brand on a massive international marketing stage like the Olympics — has players lining up for the chance to play in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. (Oh yea, Rio is another reason guys are lining up.)

That means those players will be at the Team USA mini-camp in Las Vegas in early August. We knew Carmelo Anthony would be there even though he cannot fully participate, now you can add Blake Griffin, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to the list. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN had the Griffin news.

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin will participate in next month’s USA Basketball minicamp in Las Vegas and hopes to play in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, a league source told ESPN.

Griffin is one of those guys who has had injury issues with Team USA. Remember in 2012 he was likely to make the London Olympics roster but tore his meniscus in training camp after stepping on John Wall’s foot during practice. His back injury sidelined him two years ago from the FIBA World Cup.

Then there are the Warriors stars.

The camp also will be crowded with guys like Jimmy Butler of the Bulls trying to earn a roster spot. Stein says as many as 40 guys could be at camp, including Bradley Beal, Mike Conley, Gordon Hayward and Mason Plumlee. It’s an important place to make an impression. Players with a long Team USA history and enough talent don’t need to attend — if LeBron James or Kevin Durant want to play in Rio, they are in no matter what they do this summer.

Whoever makes the cut for Mike Krzyzewski’s team, the USA will go to Rio the heavy favorites to win the Gold Medal again. Spain — if both Marc Gasol and Pau Gasol go — will again likely be the biggest challengers.