Stephen A. Smith says Rasheed Wallace will return to Celtics

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UPDATE #2, 5:08 pm: Rasheed Wallace’s agent is now the latest to say his return does not appear likely, although like a good agent should Bill Strickland left the door open a crack when talking to FanHouse:

“I don’t think that’s the case — for now anyway,” Strickland told FanHouse. “He has a period of time to where he may be thinking about it, but he has not given me any indication of his intent to return. … He’s still saying that for now he’s good, that he’s OK where he is.”

UPDATE 3:53 pm: Doc Rivers threw cold water on this bit of reporting/speculation when speaking to the media on Wednesday, saying “there have been no discussions” along these lines, as tweeted by Comcast New England‘s A. Sherrod Blakely. Which is probably the truth but not nearly as much fun as making up scenarios where ‘Sheed returns to Boston (although the only logical one is an ugly rash of injuries, so we’re trying to come up with better ones). Just leave us to daydreaming, thank you.

1: 09 pm: Honestly, we’d laugh this off if it weren’t for the fact months before LeBron James announced where he was taking is talents, Stephen A. Smith was calling Miami. We all laughed it off then, turns out he was right.

So with that, we bring you what Smith said on the Dan Patrick show Wednesday:

Smith said that the Celtics counter the Heat’s athleticism with “brute size” and Rasheed Wallace will come out of retirement to come back to the Celtics.

Smith said Wallace told him that’s the plan, because he wants another shot at the Lakers in the NBA Finals.

The idea of a retired Sheed returning halfway through the season was a hot rumor last season during the finals. He still lives in the Boston area and has shown up at some Celtics practices. Wallace walked away from $12 million on his contract because he didn’t like playing through injuries, he didn’t have another full season and that grind in him. But he showed in Game 7 — forced to start due to the injury to Kendrick Perkins — that he still has some game, scoring 11 points of 5-11 shooting and grabbing 8 rebounds. In a game where everyone seemed tight, Wallace and Ron Artest of the Lakers were the two seemingly unaffected by the moment.

One little problem with this grand return (and not just that the Lakers and Celtics may not make the finals) — the Celtics already have 15 guys under contract. To bring in Wallace means to buy out someone else, like Von Wafer. And that’s just not likely to happen. But we’re not ruling anything out.

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.