Report: Kobe offered more than $1.5 million a month to play in China

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Kobe Bryant dropped out of negotiations with a Turkish squad, but you knew other teams were going to make big money runs at him.

And they are coming from China, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo sports.

The Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant(notes) has offers north of $1.5 million a month to play in China, and sources say he’d be inclined to accept a contract except for the one immense hurdle standing in his way: Chinese Basketball Association officials will likely pass a rule in the middle of this week forbidding the signing of players with NBA opt-out clauses.

We told you that rule was coming but we also told you many Chinese teams are ignoring it. Chinese teams often go through multiple foreign players a season, picking up one and dropping another casually. Essentially the teams would make handshake agreements to drop a player once the lockout ended and they don’t think there is much the league could do about it.

The teams have money from sponsors in China and you can bet Nike and other shoe/apparel manufactures would encourage — and pick up part of the tab? — their biggest stars to play in the biggest market in the world. It’s all about marketing, Kobe’s salary (even at $2 million a month) would be half of his NBA salary next season, so this is all about selling shoes.

Woj touches on the other side of this discussion — it would really anger the Chinese government if their league became a rent-a-player home for the NBA. And the NBA wants to stay in good with the Chinese government, as does Nike.

Still, China is where the teams are making a push and where there is potential — there is the money and because the league doesn’t start until December players would have a better read on where the lockout stands after games are missed by the time they have to report to camp.

Shanxi has been the most aggressive Chinese team in pursuing NBA talent, sources said, and has made players offers of well over $1 million per month. As one agent who recently visited officials in China told Yahoo! Sports, “I think there are five or six $750,000-plus jobs left right now, and most teams will offer between $40,000 and $100,000 a month to NBA players. Every team will sign a U.S. center, and half of them a point guard, and half a wing player.”

It’s going to get interesting folks. Very interesting.

Cavaliers’ Kendrick Perkins not into “all that new stuff” like Chewbacca

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Chewbacca was at Game 3 in Cleveland Saturday. Sitting courtside.

Why? Because growing up on Kashyyyk he played a little hoop and admires LeBron James‘ skill? Because Drake gave him the tickets? Maybe. I mean, it’s not like that was just a clever little publicity stunt for a movie.

After the Cavaliers’ win, Kevin Love decided to make a little joke of it with noted humorist Kendrick Perkins, and it went over as well as expected (with Dave McMenamin of ESPN catching it).

That’s vintage Perkins.

Celtics’ Terry Rozier on Game 3: “We needed to get our butts whooped”

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Cleveland dominated Game 3 Saturday night. They played harder, to start. The Cavaliers’ defensive pressure on the ball was better, they were sharper rotating out to shooters and covering passing lanes. Cleveland’s role players stepped up and helped LeBron James.

Boston, meanwhile, wilted in the face of that pressure Saturday, something it has done a few times on the road these playoffs. The Celtics got away from the things that got them to the Eastern Conference Finals. Guard Terry Rozier put it more bluntly, via A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston:

“I feel like we needed this (loss) to get us back … to get us ready for Monday,” Rozier said.

Rozier later added, “We needed to get our butts whipped. Come back to reality and take care of business on Monday.”

Cleveland is a championship team — from LeBron James on down through the core guys, they all have rings. They have been down before, and heading home it was expected they would play with force. Cleveland’s back was against the wall and they responded.

From the Celtics’ perspective, they also got a little too fat and happy and were not ready for what the Cavaliers came with in Game 3.

Now the pressure is on Boston to push back, to get back to their level of execution and do it under pressure. Make the Cavaliers prove the improved defensive effort was not a one-off game. The Celtics must move the ball and play with some pace, then see if the Cavaliers can keep it together in the face of crisp play.

When this series heads back to Boston Wednesday, it will either see the Celtics in control up 3-1, or the series will be a best of three (with the Cavs still having to figure out if they can win on the road). At home, the Cavaliers are going to play with force again and have some depth. We’ll see if Game 3 was enough of a wakeup call for Boston.

PBT Extra: Can Rockets take Game 2 energy, execution on the road?

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Houston found its blueprint to beating Golden State in Game 2: Strong defensive pressure on the ball, quick switches and communication on defense, getting out in transition when possible, and starting sets earlier in the shot clock and attacking downhill with James Harden and Chris Paul.

Now can they do that on the road? Against a more focused and sharper Warriors’ team?

That will be the question in the next two games of the Western Conference Finals, and it’s what I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.

Cavaliers cruise past Celtics in Game 3, change complexion of Eastern Conference finals

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The Cavaliers were heavy favorites over the Celtics entering the Eastern Conference finals. LeBron James has dominated the East for years, and Cleveland appeared to hit its stride in a sweep of the Raptors last round. Boston was shorthanded and inexperienced.

Were the Celtics’ two wins to open the series, as impressive as they were, really enough to override everything else we knew about these teams?

The Cavs walloped Boston in Game 3, 116-86, Saturday. Cleveland now has four of the NBA’s last five 30-point playoff wins – two against the Celtics last year, one over Toronto last round and tonight. (The Cavaliers lost the league’s only other 30-point game between, to the Pacers in the first round.)

Boston still leads the series 2-1, and teams up 2-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 80% of the time.

But the team up 2-1 is usually the one seen as better entering the series. That isn’t the case here, not with LeBron on the other side. And the leading team usually isn’t so woeful on the road, which will remain a major storyline entering Game 4 Monday in Cleveland.

The Celtics bought themselves margin for error, but they blew a lot of it tonight.

It’d be an oversimplification to say the Cavs just played harder, but they did, and it went along way. They chased loose balls, tightened their defense and moved more off the ball offensively. Cleveland jumped to a 20-4 lead, led by double digits the rest of the way and spent most of the game up by at least 20.

LeBron (27 points, 12 assists, two blocks and two steals) dazzled as a passer and locked in as a defender. He received help from several players:

In a low-resistance effort, Boston didn’t goon up the game at all.

The Cavaliers still have plenty of work ahead to reach their fourth straight NBA Finals, but tonight, they showed a path to advancing. Climbing out of their early series deficit now looks far less intimidating.