Blake Griffin heads 2012 rookie deal extension class

1 Comment

Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook got theirs. Kevin Love got a deal, as did Danilo Gallinari. Eric Gordon and Brook Lopez did not. And nobody seriously considered giving Michael Beasley one.

It’s the first extension to the rookie contract — the first chance for NBA players to make serious, serious money. But as we saw this year teams are pretty careful about handing them out. They want to get value for that money, and there are just not a lot of max deal guys out there.

So what about the next class? Tom Ziller broke out some of the big names today at SBN.

Blake Griffin is a sure fire max. This requires about as much thought as Rose’s deal — Griffin is one of the top power forwards in the game, and his highlight reel game fills the building nightly. Even if he can get a Rose super-max deal, he’s a bargain. No owner will screw this up, not even Donald Sterling.

After that… don’t expect anybody to get a max deal. And you may not want to offer any of these guys deals. Let’s go by draft order (remember Griffin was No.1 overall).

2. Hasheem Thabeet. Not even eligible because his fourth year contract was not even offered.

3. James Harden. Here is one of the tricky ones — he deserves an extension but not a max deal. But what is the number? A deal like Gallinari’s ($42 million over four years)? Westbrook took less money this year in part to give the team room to bring back Harden, but can OKC get him to agree to a price that lets them also extend Serge Ibaka the following year? This could be a case where what the Thunder offer and what Harden thinks he can get on the open market vary greatly.

4. Tyreke Evans. Ziller put it this way.

It would be very Sacramento Kings to offer a five-year max on Day 1 of the early extension period, even without knowing which Tyreke Evans is the true version. Evans had a wash of a second season due in part to injury and in part to Paul Westphal’s painful lack of player development. This third season isn’t looking a whole lot better. I’d be hesitant to offer Evans much more than what Gallinari received at this point, but teams like the Kings can’t really afford to consider life without their best players.

I think that would be overpaying for him. The question with Evans is how much of his problems are his own doing and how much of it is because the Kings are a mess?

5/6. Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn. Neither of the Timberwolves picks are eligible. Rubio because he just came and started playing this season (he is in the first year of his contract) and Flynn because his fourth year was not extended.

7. Stephen Curry. Another tough one — good player, popular in the community, can fill up the basket, but his ankle injury history makes you hesitant to talk long-term deal. When healthy he also is in the $10 million a year range, but how his ankle heals will be the real deciding factor.

8. Jordan Hill. Also not eligible because nobody wanted his fourth year offer sheet.

9. DeMar DeRozan. A guy with so much athletic ability and potential who is really struggling in Toronto in his contact year. He’s not getting the max or anywhere near it, but let him become a restricted free agent and he’s the kind of guy some GM will overpay.

10. Brandon Jennings. The Bucks would like to keep him, but he is no max guy. Like Curry, this is a guy you make what you think is a fair offer too, but if he becomes a restricted free agent and market sets his price.

Other guys of note.

Jrue Holiday. Like Jennings, the 76ers want to keep him, and may make him an offer, but this is a franchise with a history of letting guys become restricted free agents.

Ty Lawson. If Denver makes a deep playoff run his stock goes up. The Nuggets want to keep him and he is likely going to get a pretty fair, healthy offer from the team.

Tyler Hansbrough: Ziller says it well.

Indiana is going to be focused on bigger fish this the summer, namely the restricted free agency of Roy Hibbert and possibly Eric Gordon. Hansbrough isn’t so highly thought of that his own restricted free agency in 2013 would be make-or-break for the Pacers, so there’s little reason to pre-empt it.

Watch all of LeBron James’ 46 points in Game 6

1 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
2 Comments

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
Leave a 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.