Cavaliers front office just looks, acts stunned

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cavaliers.jpgFirst, team owner Dan Gilbert stepped up to the mike (well, sort of, there was no podium so he just looked exposed).

“Obviously we’re very disappointed…it’s one of those things that you can’t believe it,” he said in a televised press conference.

Then General Manager Danny Ferry took the stage and didn’t sound like a guy that had been working on a Plan B.

“I think Dan and I need to sit down and review things. Then we’ll go from there,” Ferry said.

If there was one over-arcing feeling from the post-season press conferences for the Cleveland Cavaliers front office, it was that everyone was stunned. Disappointed, for sure, but caught off guard by the loss to the Celtics in round two. Shell shocked. After the first round of the playoffs they thought they were on the way to a title.

Now they are looking at a crazy amount of potential changes in one season – a coach, the best player in the game, a $20 million center all could be gone. Or not. There are a lot of variables.

What we know is right now Mike Brown has not yet been fired as head coach. Pretty much everybody knows that is what is going to happen, but Gilbert said that he wants to evaluate everything to do with the team — “we’ll look at the music we play in the arena” — then start going down whatever path they choose. Brown will not join them on that path, but nobody was going to say that today.

The bigger question is if Danny Ferry will be on that road. He had a defensive minded coach but kept giving him players like Shaquille O’Neal and Antawn Jamison and Mo Williams — not exactly defensive stalwarts. He has spent to rebuild the roster, but has he done it wisely enough?

The biggest question is LeBron James and what he decides to do. And nobody knows that right now. Probably not even James. He will not make a decision until early July at best.

But he impacts every other decision for the Cavs. He will have some sway — maybe a ton of sway — in the search for a new coach. Same with potential free agents to be brought in. He dramatically impacts the revenue the franchise will pull in from ticket sales and sponsorships, changing the equation on the payroll expenditures short and long term. While the coach and general manager will be the first decisions to be made, no other dominoes can fall until LeBron makes his decision.

Gilbert said that he thinks the Cavaliers are in the middle of the sweepstakes for LeBron (he’s right about that).

“I think this is the best franchise for him to play at,” he said.

Gilbert did seem to have one direction he wanted to follow — he wants a team built more for the playoffs.

“I guess if there is one takeaway here, is having the best regular season record in the NBA is not as important… as we thought it was, as I thought it was,” he said.

He sounded sincere, talking about trying to learn from the franchises mistakes. He also sounded stunned.

Lakers’ recruiting pitch for Paul George leaks

AP Photo/R Brent Smith
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LeBron James doesn’t want elaborate pitches in free agency.

Paul George never said that, though.

So, the Lakers are apparently planning to put some showbiz into their recruitment.

Robin Lundberg of Sports Illustrated, citing a “Hollywood source,” revealed a Lakers pitch for George. The direction:

Less Morgan Freeman/Denzel Washington, and more Jamie Foxx. A bit more edge an attitude to their voice, and a bit less aspirational

The text:

When you were just a kid

In your room
Dreaming from Palmdale

We were dreaming too.

While you dreamt, we built – built for your arrival

And while we dreamt, you built too
Becoming one of the world’s greatest.

Life’s most powerful dream are the one we realize ourselves.

The ones that turn us into legends.
That kid from Palmdale always knew it
Now the world will, too

Who wrote this, noted storyteller Kobe Bryant?

My bigger question: Did or did not the Lakers, who’ve gone to great lengths to make their interest in George known, want this to leak before the official start of free agency?

Report: No divide between Chris Paul and Rockets over contract

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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That rumor of tension between Chris Paul and the Rockets over his contract?

Sam Amick of USA Today:

As for the recent report from Fox Sports’ Chris Broussard that there are rising tensions between the two sides because Paul wants the full max and isn’t sure if he’ll get it, two people with knowledge of the situation refuted the idea there is any friction between the sides.

Remember, everyone who leaks something has an agenda. But I find this report far more credible than the initial rumor.

Paul’s max projects to be about $205 million over five years. That’s a lot to commit to a 33-year-old, but Paul took a discount to facilitate an opt-in-and-trade to Houston last year. He expects to be made whole.

Until Broussard’s report, all indications were the Rockets would appease him. Barring more information, that should remain the expectation.

Report: LeBron James not planning to sit for elaborate pitch meetings in free agency

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LeBron James held court in Cleveland in 2010, listening to pitch after pitch as teams flew in to recruit the superstar during free agency. That approach became a model, and Kevin Durant followed it in the Hamptons in 2016.

But maybe once is enough.

Durant announced months ago he’d stay with the Warriors. And now LeBron – who could definitely leave Cleveland – is making clear he doesn’t want the hoopla, either.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

sources close to the situation tell ESPN that he has no intention of hearing elaborate pitch meetings from teams.

league sources believe he and his agents Rich Paul and Mark Termini have enough understanding of the stakes and NBA landscape to handle the process without much fanfare.

LeBron is still haunted by The Decision. He’s a great player and philanthropist and does plenty to connect with fans. Yet, people still dislike him purely because of how he changed teams eight years ago.

If I wielded as much power as LeBron, I’d want suitors wining and dining me. He wants to avoid more backlash.

This will probably look similar to 2014 – LeBron’s agents hearing out teams then LeBron meeting with only the most serious options, though the final announcement will likely come via Uninterrupted rather than Sports Illustrated.

The Lakers, Cavaliers, Rockets and 76ers are commonly viewed as the favorites for LeBron. This approach makes it less likely for a longshot to emerge – though, for what it’s worth, we don’t know those four teams are his favorites right now.

Report: Nuggets re-signing Nikola Jokic to five-year max after declining team option

AP Photo/Matt Slocum
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The Nuggets are building around Nikola Jokic.

But a second-round pick turning into a franchise player so quickly creates complications. Denver is resolving one by declining Jokic’s team option, which will send him into restricted free agency (as opposed to unrestricted free agency next year) and paying him.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

This ought to please Jokic. He would have earned just $1,600,520 next season if Denver exercised his team option.

Jokic is one of the best-passing full-time centers ever. He also shoots and rebounds well, though he must improve his defense to become worthy of this contract. At just 23, he’s worth betting on.

That said, I’m surprised the Nuggets didn’t get him on a slight discount. Though they clearly didn’t want to risk him testing unrestricted free agency next year, they gave him a MASSIVE raise (about $24 million) next season when they didn’t have to.

Jokic’s exact max salary won’t be determined until the salary cap and luxury-tax line are set this month. But this clearly puts Denver in cost-cutting mode now.

As constructed, the Nuggets are in line for about $24 million in luxury-tax payments. That’s without considering Will Barton, who’ll be an unrestricted free agent. Expect Denver to look to unload Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, Wilson Chandler and/or Mason Plumlee.

Jokic was always going to be in Denver next season. The Nuggets have now secured him far longer. It will cost them next year – an important season to them – but they also clearly value a future with Jokic.