LeBron says Wade is “getting that Kobe deal” in next contract. Should he?

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If the Miami Heat’s big three of Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James all decided not to opt out and came back to the Heat under their current contracts, they would make a combined $61.3 million next season. Next year’s salary cap is currently projected to be $62.9 million.

However, all three of them can and may well opt out and seek longer, potentially richer deals (LeBron and Bosh almost certainly will, Wade seems likely unless he only wants to play a couple more years). Those potentially larger salaries could really hamstring management’s ability to put a good enough team around those three to win a title.

All of which came up in the wake of Kobe Bryant’s extension with the Lakers. Kobe will make $48.5 million over the next two seasons, which is a paycut from the $30 million a year he makes but also will leave him the highest paid player in the league. That money going to Kobe cuts into the cap space the Lakers would have had available to put players around him. A lot of people expected Kobe to take a Tim Duncan sized contract (he went from $21 million down to $9.6 million) and there was some frustration in Los Angeles.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com tried to ask Wade about if he would take a paycut.

LeBron James answered for him.

“D-Wade is getting that Kobe deal,” James said from the next locker

Wade, knowing the gravity of this issue, smiled and shook his head. Then he gave a more diplomatic answer.

“When I get into that position, it’s something I’ll think about,” Wade said. “You have to sit down at the time and see what is best for you and for your team.”

That’s vague, but what else do you expect Wade to say?

At this point the discussion is largely theoretical. How this all plays out will depend on a lot of things, including how the Heat do in the playoffs this season. All three took a little bit less money in 2010 to come together, would they be willing to take more of a cut to stay together? Would Wade be willing to make a larger sacrifice? Or does Bosh decide he wants to be the star somewhere else and bolt? How much luxury tax is Miami’s ownership willing to pay?

All of these conversations will happen with agents on some level before July 1, when all of them can be free agents. Both management and the players have some hard questions to answer before then.

LeBron James flips elimination-game game on its head

AP Photo/Charles Krupa
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His Cavaliers down 3-2 to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, how does LeBron James assess his situation?

"I don’t enjoy being in the position where it’s you lose and go home," LeBron said before Game 6 tonight in Cleveland.

He might not enjoy this position, but he’s pretty good in it.

Since he first reached the playoffs in 2006, other teams have won 26% of their elimination games. LeBron’s teams have won 57% of theirs.

Of course, LeBron hasn’t gone 12-9 in elimination games just because he’s lucky. He has willed his team off the mat numerous times.

LeBron has scored 40 points and/or had a triple-double in six straight elimination games, winning five of them. His line in his last elimination game before that streak? Just 32 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists.

A full history of LeBron’s elimination games:

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Rockets played with fire with Chris Paul, got burned

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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Chris Paul played 79 minutes in three days.

Prior to Games 4 and 5 of these Western Conference finals, he hadn’t done that in more than two years. He hadn’t done it without both games going to overtime in more than three years.

The Rockets leaned heavily on the 33-year-old Paul, and they’ll pay the price.

Paul will miss Game 6 against the Warriors tomorrow. Given how quickly Houston ruled out Paul with a strained hamstring, he seems unlikely to play in a potential Game 7 Monday.

Injuries are somewhat – but not completely – random. Players are more susceptible when worn down. After missing the close of the 2016 postseason, Paul missed 45 games the last two regular seasons. He has accumulated a lot of mileage in his 13-year career.

Yet, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni drastically shortened his rotation, anyway. Not only did Paul play big minutes in this series, he shouldered a huge load. He took the reins of the offense at times, allowing James Harden to conserve energy for defense, while maintaining his own strong-two way play. That’s never easy, especially in these high-intensity games.

This was the risk.

We can feel bad for Paul and his predicament. We can also acknowledge Houston got this far by gambling on Paul’s health.

That’s not to say it was a bad bet. This is what you save him for, the biggest playoff series of his career and maybe one of the last before he exits his prime. The Rockets would have been far worse off to this point resting Paul extensively and protecting him. Even with such a heavy workload, an injury was never fait accompli. And Houston got plenty from Paul before he went down. He was instrumental to wins in Game 4 and Game 5 that gave the Rockets a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.

Now, they just must hope that’s enough of a head-start into a world of playing without Paul.

Chris Paul out for Rockets-Warriors Game 6

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The Rockets bought themselves margin for error by earning home-court advantage and taking a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.

They’ll need it.

Chris Paul will miss Game 6 against the Warriors tomorrow with a strained hamstring.

Rockets release:

The Houston Rockets announced today that guard Chris Paul will miss Saturday’s game at Golden State with a right hamstring strain that occurred during the fourth quarter of last night’s game against the Warriors. He will be re-evaluated after the team returns to Houston.

Golden State was already heavily favored at home. This will tilt the odds even further in its favor.

But the Rockets aren’t completely incapable without Paul. They went 15-9 without him this season. James Harden and Eric Gordon can assume extra playmaking duty.

Still, this is a massive loss. When Harden is overburdened offensively, his defense suffers. Gordon is already playing a lot of minutes, so greater responsibility will come in role, not playing time. To fill Paul’s minutes, Mike D’Antoni will have to expand a rotation he had masterfully tightened. Gerald Green could play more. Luc Mbah a Moute could return to the rotation.

A Game 7 looks increasingly likely. Will Paul return for that? The 2018 NBA title might hinge on that question.

Given how quickly the Rockets announced Paul would miss Game 6, there isn’t much reason for optimism about Paul’s availability three days from now, either.

Report: Chris Paul’s hamstring injury ‘not good’

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The question looming over the Western Conference finals: How is Chris Paul?

The Rockets revealed little last night about Paul’s hamstring injury. Time to see how his body responded would provide clarity.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

That stinks. It’s also a fairly expected development. Paul appeared to be in rough shape before leaving the court.

The Rockets have bought themselves margin for error, but a sidelined or even hobbled Paul would sap a lot of it.

If Paul can’t play in Game 6 tomorrow, expect Eric Gordon and James Harden to receive a larger offensive roles (though not necessarily more minutes). Gerald Green could play more, and maybe Luc Mbah a Moute gets back into the rotation.