Setting a franchise record in any statistical category in the NBA is no doubt something to be celebrated. But when you do it in an area that’s traditionally dominated by big men, for a franchise that’s had two of the greatest frontcourt players of this era, it’s even more impressive.
Allow me to introduce you to Nikola Vucevic, who scored a career-high 20 points and pulled down a franchise record 29 rebounds for the Orlando Magic in their overtime loss to the Heat on Monday.
You can see how active Vucevic was in the clip above — granted, the Heat aren’t exactly known for their dominant presence inside, and opposing team’s bigs regularly go to town on this season’s version of the defending champs.
But 29 rebounds is a [bucket] load, and in fact, that number has been matched or exceeded only twice in a game since the 1985-86 season.
Kevin Love hauled in 31 rebounds against the Knicks back in 2010, and Kevin Willis equaled the 29 back in 1991. That’s it; no one else besides these two has achieved the feat at any time in the last 27 years.
Add all that to the fact we’re talking about a team that had several seasons of two of the most dominant big men we’ve seen in the past couple of decades in Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard, and you’ve got something really special.
That’s what Vucevic was on this night, shattering the Orlando franchise record of 28 set by O’Neal back in 1993.
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
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.
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
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:
Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic will have his team option declined for next season to become RFA, and sides plan to reach agreement on a five-year, $146.5M maximum contract, league sources told Yahoo.
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.
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.