Winderman: Tampering? That's a bigger fantasy than the one LeBron/Wade/Bosh had

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Thumbnail image for bosh_wade_james.jpgFirst there are negotiations.

Then there are signings.

And then there are recriminations.

On that last count, we thought it wouldn’t get any more ludicrous than Dan Gilbert’s opening statement, and it certainly was a doozy.

But this tampering talk might just top it.

Look, players talk, players plan, players dream.

You want to keep superstars from congregating, then kill the dream team, send the college kids back off to slaughter.

Because if you’re going to sequester the game’s elite for several weeks every other year, have them buy into Mike Krzyzewski’s Kumbaya, then this is what you are going to get: Greatness finding a way toward other greatness.

When it comes to some sort of preordained, rock-solid Wade-Bosh-‘Bron pact, first consider late March and early April at AmericanAirlines Arena.

There, in a tunnel leading to the locker room, were phone banks, being manned during games, selling Heat 2010-11 tickets at a discount. The television broadcasts made you feel as if you were part of a PBS membership drive. Pat Riley even sat in during one broadcast, pitching product as if channeling Billy Mays.

If you have any iota you’re landing Wade, Bosh, ‘Bron, you’re not offering free popcorn and souvenir T-shirts.

Then go back to mid-February, when the Heat’s aggression in pushing for an Amare Stoudemire trade reached the point of fervor.

If Stoudemire was obtained, an extension would have followed. And Wade-Bosh-‘Bron would have ended right there.

And then there was were those recruiting trips by Heat management at the outset of free agency, the meetings with Stoudemire and Brendan Haywood and anyone else who could be tempted while crossing time zones.

All for show? At 65, Pat Riley doesn’t do the redeye for show.

Yes, Wade, Bosh and ‘Bron had this vision for years

Just like the Knicks had their vision when they cleared the cap.

Just like the Bulls did when they dealt Kirk Hinrich.

But for any owner, other than the owner of the Cavaliers or Raptors, to discuss any tampering claim over Wade, Bosh and ‘Bron is basically calling the owners of Knicks and Bulls, and others in the chase, a group of imbeciles, because they should have known this was all preordained.

By crying foul at this late date, they would be admitting that they were hoodwinked, that they never positioned their own franchises to succeed. That they failed.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

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.