PBT's Free Agent Roundup, Day 1: When average players get wildly overpaid

15 Comments

Recession? What recession?

After pleading poverty for a year — remember David Stern said the teams would lose $400 million this season — teams went on a spending spree like Paris Hilton with a black American Express card. It was obscene. This will come back to haunt the owners during the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations.

It was a day of average players getting oversized contracts. Let’s wrap up the entire day of news:

* Rudy Gay — a good small forward with unlimited potential and very limited focus and drive — was given a near max deal, five years and $82 million. Gay is a good player, scoring almost 20 points a game but not all that efficiently (he had a slightly above average PER of 16 last season). But the Grizzlies were afraid of losing him as Minnesota was interested — and they’ve been passing out stupid big contracts for years. New Jersey had him pegged as Plan B. So the Grizzlies bid against themselves and gave him the max deal. He took it. Obviously. We’ll see how this motivates him next season.

* Darko Milicic agreed to a four-year, $20 million deal with Minnesota. Yes, that Darko Milicic. He had three nice months at the end of the season for the T-wolves; he’s the kind of big that is a solid fit in the triangle offense. But that in no way negates the last few years or warrants a $20 million deal. Amazingly, this wasn’t even the strangest big man contract of the day …

* Amir Johnson was given a five-year, $34 million deal by the Toronto Raptors. The fact you just asked yourself “Who is Amir Johnson?” says all you need to know about the contracts given out today. He’s a solid backup big who just got a $34 million deal.

* Just to round out this theme, backup center Channing Frye was given a five-year, $30 million deal by Phoenix, which he accepted. The guy can hit 3-pointers and is a nice fit in the Suns system, but does that mean he worthy of a $30 million deal? Well, yes, today it does.

* LeBron James listened to pitches from the Nets and Knicks. Both teams had fancy power-point presentations. Jay-Z was there. So were a bank of cameras, complete with live remotes from ESPN — of the outside of a building where the meetings were being held. Friday will be more of the same with the Clippers and Heat visiting. But the process is not out of control. No sir. (Will the Clippers even have a power point, or is it a legal pad and a Sharpie?)

* Dwyane Wade had meetings with the Nets and Bulls, but we all know he’s going to stay in Miami and is still trying to recruit help there.

* Chris Bosh sat down with Miami’s Pat Riley, as well as representatives from the Nets. More meetings including Chicago are to come. But the dark horse in all of this is Houston — Bosh met with Daryl Morey, who gave him a personal iPad that had video testimonials from Yao Ming and others. If Bosh is serious about winning, Houston has to be considered (and they have plenty to offer in a sign and trade, maybe the best of Toronto’s options).

* Amare Stoudemire met with Pat Riley and the Heat for a couple hours and now has meetings scheduled with the Knicks, Bulls and Raptors.

* Joe Johnson reportedly has agreed to a max-deal offer of six years, $119 million from the Hawks. Another guy getting overpaid — a good player getting superstar money, and they will regret the last few years of that deal.

Watch all of LeBron James’ 46 points in Game 6

Leave a comment

There is going to be a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals Sunday because of LeBron James.

George Hill had a strong game (20 points), Jeff Green and Larry Nance Jr. had their moments, but it was all about LeBron — 46 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists in 46 brilliant minutes.

Rather than try to describe his game to you — including the dagger threes late — just watch.

And enjoy. There are still some people out there (mostly on Twitter, it seems) who just want to tear LeBron down for some reason. I pity them. Not just because they are wrong, although they are. Rather, it’s because they are depriving themselves of enjoying one of the greatest players ever to lace them up. LeBron can bully people in the paint, hit step back threes, is as gifted a passer as the game has seen, and just plays a smart, high-IQ game we have got to watch grow over the years. If you can’t enjoy that, you don’t love basketball.

LeBron James is a force nature, scores 46, wills Cavaliers to win forcing Game 7

Getty Images
Leave a comment

What more can be said about the brilliance of LeBron James?

We can point to his 46 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists Friday night in a win-or-go-fishing elimination game. We can point to how he lifted the team up when Kevin Love went down after a blow to the head (more on that later). We could talk about how this is his seventh 40+ point game of the playoffs, the last guy to do that since Michael Jordan in 1989 (when Jordan was 25 and had yet to win a title).

Or, we can just show you his back-to-back dagger threes in the fourth quarter over Jayson Tatum.

That is art on a basketball court.

LeBron got a little help Friday night at home, and with that the Cavaliers won Game 6 109-99, forcing a Game 7 back in Boston on Sunday night.

“It feels good just to play for another game, and like I’ve always said ‘Game 7’ is the best two words in sports,” LeBron said. “And for us to be on the road in a hostile environment where we have had no success up to this point, we should relish the opportunity and have fun with it.”

LeBron was nothing short of brilliant (remember 10-12 years ago people were trying to say he was afraid of the big moment, damn that sounds silly now). He is historically brilliant in Game 7s, but he can’t do it alone.

George Hill, the second best shot creator on the team, had 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Jeff Green had 14 off the bench, and Larry Nance Jr. had a timely 10 points and 7 rebounds.

Nance’s play was crucial because Kevin Love went down 5 minutes into the game after banging heads with Jayson Tatum while setting a screen.

Love’s was being checked for a concussion and his status for Game 7 is not known. (If he does have a concussion, it’s unlikely he clears the league protocol in time to play in two days.)

Despite LeBron and all of it, the Celtics had their chances in this one.

Boston got off to a fast start because Jaylen Brown had 15 first-quarter points and the Celtics shot 61 percent as a team, none of which seemed sustainable but it got them out to a 25-20 lead after one. Then the Cavaliers came on in the second with a 20-4 run behind LeBron, and once they had the lead the Cavaliers never let it go.

Boston will look back on not grabbing rebounds — Cleveland grabbed the offensive rebound on 36.6 percent of their missed shots, a very high percentage — and the fact the Celtics missed nine free throws and think things could have been different.

Boston is going home, where they are 10-0 these playoffs and for some reason inexplicable even to Brad Stevens, they play much better. The Celtics have a great defense, smart players, and a real chance.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have LeBron James. That may be enough.

“We have one more game to be able to compete for a championship, what more can you ask for?” LeBron said.

Kevin Love being evaluated for concussion, out for second half

Getty Images
1 Comment

It happened just five minutes into the game — Cleveland’s Kevin Love and Boston’s Jayson Tatum banged heads.

Love was in the midpost and part of his job was to set a screen for George Hill, who was racing out to the arc. In doing so, Love and Tatum banged heads and it wasn’t pretty.

Love spent a few minutes on the ground, went straight to the locker room, and has not returned to the game.

Tatum did not leave the game.

There still is no official word on if Love has a concussion. If he does, he will go into the league’s mandated concussion protocol — which means to be cleared he has to be symptom free through a series of physical tests — and it would be a challenge for him to be back for a Game 7, if there is one.

And their likely will be one. After struggling in the rest of the first quarter without Love, the Cavaliers have gotten solid performances out of Hill, Jeff Green, and of course, LeBron James has been brilliant. The Cavaliers have a comfortable 15-point lead late in the third quarter.

NBA Finals schedule drops, Game 1 Thursday, May 31

Getty Images
1 Comment

We don’t know where the NBA Finals will be played, but we know when.

Next Thursday the eyes of the NBA world could be focused on Oakland or Houston, and the following Wednesday that may shift to Boston or Cleveland. All four of those teams still have a chance to make the NBA Finals.

What we know is the dates for the games. Here is the schedule:

Game 1, Thursday, May 31, at 9 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Game 2, Sunday, June 3, at 8 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Game 3, Wednesday, June 6, at 9 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 4, Friday, June 8, at 9 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 5, Monday, June 11, at 9 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Game 6, Thursday, June 14, at 9 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 7, Sunday, June 17, at 8 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Games 5, 6, and 7 are if necessary. All games will be broadcast on ABC.

There were no surprises here. The date of the start of the NBA Finals has been set since before the season started (it always is, to help broadcast partners and international media plan). The game pattern follows the same as last year, when the NBA changed it to make sure there was at least one day off in addition to travel days when the venue switches cities.