Tag: LeBron James

US forward Kevin Durant celebrates after

Kevin Durant to practice with Team USA in Las Vegas

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Some encouraging news on the Kevin Durant health front: he won’t be playing in the exhibition game, but his representatives tell USA Today‘s Sam Amick that the 2014 league MVP is going to participate in practice with Team USA this week in Las Vegas.

According to his agent, Rich Kleiman of Roc Nation Sports, and his manager, Charlie Bell, the Oklahoma City Thunder star who played just 27 games last season because of a fracture in his right foot plans to practice on Tuesday and Wednesday with Team USA at minicamp in Las Vegas. Durant will not, however, take part in the showcase game on Thursday at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

USA Basketball president Jerry Colangelo has said that players who want to be considered for the Olympic team next summer need to at least come to the minicamp, even if they only show up for the meeting. That’s all LeBron James is doing. Durant played in just 27 games last season after undergoing foot surgery, so it would have made sense for him to take a similar approach, especially with his free agency looming in a year. Durant feeling healthy enough to at least go through practice with Team USA is definitely a good sign for the Thunder this season.

Report: Thunder to host Bulls on Christmas Day

Oklahoma City Thunder v Chicago Bulls

Slowly but surely, details of the NBA’s 2015-16 regular-season schedule are emerging. The whole thing is expected to be released officially this week, but four of the five Christmas Day matchups have come out. The Pelicans will play the Heat at noon, and there will be a Finals rematch between the Cavaliers and Warriors as well as a Lakers-Clippers matchup.

Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman adds a fourth game to that list: Bulls vs. Thunder, in Oklahoma City.

The Thunder will be home for Christmas.

For the sixth consecutive season, Oklahoma City will be featured in the league’s biggest holiday showcase when it hosts Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls on Christmas Day, The Oklahoman has learned.

It will be the first time the Thunder has hosted a Christmas game since 2011, when it defeated Orlando inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.

The Thunder is 4-1 in Christmas games, with wins against Denver in 2010, the Magic in 2011, New York in 2013 and San Antonio in 2014. OKC’s lone Christmas Day loss came at Miami in 2012.

The league has not yet determined the time of the Thunder-Bulls game. An afternoon tip is likely.

If everyone involved is healthy, this should be a good one. We haven’t had a Derrick Rose vs. Russell Westbrook point-guard matchup since December 6, 2010. Jimmy Butler, who made a name for himself this postseason defending LeBron James in the playoffs, will likely be matched up with Kevin Durant. The coaching battle between Fred Hoiberg and Billy Donovan, two highly successful college coaches with no NBA experience, will be fun to watch as well.

This leaves one Christmas Day matchup yet to be determined. Spurs-Rockets would make the most sense out of the realistic possibilities: plenty of star power (James Harden, Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan) and two legitimate title contenders. We’ll find out tomorrow.

Report: Cavaliers and Tristan Thompson still far apart in contract talks

Jae Crowder, Tristan Thompson

One way or another, Tristan Thompson is going to end up in Cleveland next season. After a strong postseason in which he started at power forward for much of the Cavs’ Finals run in place of the injured Kevin Love, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the sides would work out a long-term deal. That goes double when you factor in Thompson sharing an agent with LeBron James. Paying Thompson more than market value just seemed like the cost of doing business when the greatest player in the world decided to come home.

Apparently, it’s not that simple. We’re six weeks into free agency and Thompson doesn’t have a deal, and it doesn’t seem like that will change anytime soon.

From ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst:

There is no clear precedent for his position, which has led to a stalemate between Thompson and the Cleveland Cavaliers. It has been difficult to negotiate a middle ground, setting the stage for possible tension as training camp approaches.

Thompson, an excellent offensive rebounder and pick-and-roll player who proved valuable in the Cavs’ run to the Finals, is believed to be looking for a maximum-level contract of around $94 million over five years. The Cavs’ offers have been for significantly less.

There has been no real progress since the second week of July when talks reached an impasse and both sides dug in.

It’s tough to gauge Thompson’s value. With the salary cap rising next season, a $94 million deal won’t seem like much of an overpay going forward. But barring an injury, Thompson is not going to be a starter for the Cavs. Kevin Love re-upped on a long-term deal, and Timofey Mozgov will probably do the same next summer. Thompson doesn’t have very many options as a restricted free agent. The only teams with cap space to sign him to a max-level deal are Portland and Philadelphia, and there’s not much point in either of those teams giving him an offer sheet the Cavs will happily match.

If Thompson wants to gamble, he could sign the one-year qualifying offer for $6.8 million, as Greg Monroe did with the Pistons last summer. That would make him an unrestricted free agent next summer, when nearly every team will have cap space and he’ll be able to get an even larger max offer from somebody. It’s a huge risk — Thompson could get injured or have a down year and hurt his value. By continuing to hold their ground in these talks, the Cavs are essentially daring him to take that risk. He has no other leverage.

Another Rich Paul client, Eric Bledsoe, went through this same saga last summer. The Suns let him dangle in restricted free agency, with no other teams stepping up to make offers they knew would get matched. As it got closer to training camp, things started to get ugly and it seemed like there was a real chance he would sign the one-year qualifying offer. But one week before the start of training camp, Bledsoe and the Suns finally agreed to a five-year, $70 million deal to keep him in Phoenix. It was below the max, but still a fair deal. In both cases, there were mitigating circumstances that prevented them from being clear-cut max players. Bledsoe had an extensive injury history; Thompson probably won’t be a starter.

The rising cap works in Thompson’s favor, though. His case to the Cavs is this: max me out now under the current cap, or pay a lot more than that next summer to keep me. Eventually, they’re going to have to bite the bullet and do it, or else lose one of their most important frontcourt players a year from now.