LeBron's free agent tour to begin in New York, fan backlash soon to follow

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Thumbnail image for James_game2.jpgIt could be worse. The rumor that Nike was going to make a LeBron James free agent tour shoe series — with the date he was in each city on it — is not true. Nike shot it down. Maybe because they see where this is headed.

James is going to do a free agency tour, Sam Amick of FanHouse reports. He’s going to start in New York, then talk to New Jersey, then fly to Chicago. Then he writes my favorite line:

Depending on the level of sustained public interest and the discussions with the teams in the respective cities, James will decide at that point whether to continue on to Miami and possibly Los Angeles to see the Clippers.

Whether he talks to these teams about his future is based on the fan reaction to the tour? This is going to end with LeBron less popular than when he started it, if he is not careful.

Going on Larry King tonight during the finals — that’s because it’s about LeBron. At least for LeBron. A public tour for free agency? That’s about wanting — needing? — to be adored by the public. That is about wanting the ego stroked. This could be done quietly, professionally, but that’s not what LeBron apparently wants.

It’s too easy to just compare what LeBron is doing right now to what Kobe is doing right now — watching film, working on his game, finding ways to beat the Celtics that LeBron could not. Valid, but too simple.

Does LeBron not see the wave of public backlash coming toward him? Does he not see that America is going to watch him teasing the hearts of fans of several franchises very publicly, then disappointing some of them? Those close to LeBron may be celebrating him, but a very public tour would turn off so many more. It will erode his marketability.

It’s the weird dichotomy of American sports writing today. The public says they sick of Tiger Woods stories, that they don’t respect or like the man anymore, yet his stories and interviews and tournaments draw more people to read or watch than anything else. Give the people what they want — and if you’re watching and clicking on Tiger, you get more of him, like him or not.

So it will be with the summer of LeBron. There will be a mountain of coverage. Including on this site. Because he drives traffic, because people tune in to see what he is doing. But that is a very different thing than saying all publicity is good publicity. That an ego being fed turns off the public, even if we turn in to watch.

Stay classy, LeBron. It’s not all about you.

Rumor: Bulls’ belief in Zach LaVine waning

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Zach LaVine was the centerpiece in the Bulls’ return for trading a star. Chicago was reportedly willing to match a max offer sheet for LaVine in restricted free agency.

But maybe the Bulls have at least somewhat soured on him.

Nick Friedell of ESPN:

I don’t know why the Bulls would be down on LaVine now. I also don’t know why they were so high on him the first place.

LaVine is a good 3-point shooter and impressive dunker. But, despite his athleticism, his all-around contributions are lacking. He also hasn’t looked completely over his February 2017 ACL tear.

This leak could just be strategy. Instead of trying to scare off teams with the threat of matching any offer to LaVine, Chicago could be trying to dissuade suitors by projecting its own reluctance.

The Bulls don’t want to overpay LaVine. But they also don’t want to lose him for nothing.

Will anyone make a hard push for the 23-year-old? He surely wants a lucrative long-term contract, whether he re-signs directly with Chicago or gets an offer sheet. But, if the Bulls aren’t sold on him, I’m not sure any team will is.

LaVine’s qualifying offer will be $4,333,932. That might wind up his next salary.

PBT Extra: Grading the top of the NBA Draft

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The Phoenix Suns got it right at the top of the draft — they took Deandre Ayton.

But what of their move to trade for Mikal Bridges, the No. 10 pick, surrendering a valuable pick and the potential of Zhaire Smith for what should be a solid “3&D” wing to go with their athletic stars?

How did the Kings do at No. 2? What about Dallas’ big trade up to land Luka Doncic at three, or the Atlanta bet on Trae Young?

In this PBT Extra, I grade the top 10 picks in the draft, from the moves I like (I think Dallas did well) to ones I’m not sold on (sorry Chicago).

 

Have questions leading up to free agency? Submit your questions via e-mail for our PBT Mailbag feature. Drop us a line at pbtmailbag@gmail.com.

Lakers’ recruiting pitch for Paul George leaks

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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

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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.