Report: LeBron doesn’t want to take pay cut just to save Heat owner tax money

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Miami’s “big three” have a message: Don’t save it, spend it.

If one thing was clear from the NBA Finals and the way the Spurs easily handled the Heat the last three games, it’s that Miami needs to revamp its roster some to compete with the best of the West. Not the tear down to the studs rebuild that some talking heads suggest, but they need to get deeper, more athletic — and that takes some money. The Heat can’t change that dynamic with veteran minimum guys.

The challenge there is that if LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all opt in for next season, with Norris Cole locked in, the Heat are at the salary cap line (and that is before Udonis Haslem decides whether to opt in for $4.6 million). Pat Riley can recruit with the best of them, but the people he wants to recruit want to get paid and other teams can offer that.

Which is why it has been suggested that Miami’s “big three” would all opt out then re-sign in Miami for less money.

However, LeBron doesn’t want to take less if the Heat aren’t going to spend that money — he’s not concerned with owner Micky Arison’s luxury tax bill, reports Mitch Lawrence at the New York Daily News.

As team insiders have maintained for months, James isn’t interested in reducing his salary from $20.6 next season and $22.1 million in 2015-16 just so that team owner Micky Arison can avoid paying luxury taxes. As they say, been there, done that and all it got James was second place.

Bosh, who makes identical money to James, and Wade, who makes slightly less, at around $41.5 million for the next two seasons, also don’t want to rework their deals solely to give Arison another tax break. They want the money put to good use, meaning adding talent so that Miami can return to the Finals for a fifth straight season. No team has done that since the Red Auerbach-led Celtics of the 1960s.

That’s logical.

Here’s the thing — the big three don’t want to break up. LeBron isn’t looking to bolt, he likes Miami, he trusts management there (you think he trusts the owner in Cleveland? New York?) and this team has been to four straight Finals. It’s much easier to retool to win in Miami than it would be contend after a move to any team that can afford to sign him.

The long-shot Carmelo Anthony to the Heat rumors fit in here — all four would have to take a serious pay cut (down to about $14.6 million) but the Heat would add another serious scoring threat. Why that works for Heat management is they improve the team but it also likely would keep them under the luxury tax line because they could only use minimum contracts to round out the roster.

I think a smarter path for the Heat would be to get the big three to take pay cuts so Miami could go after someone like Kyle Lowry — a dynamic, scoring point guard. Positionally that is more of a need than a combo forward like ‘Melo. Even a point guard like Patty Mills (also a free agent) would be a nice upgrade at that spot. Miami also needs depth, athleticism and some size up front.

Pat Riley just needs real flexibility to go get it.

The big three might give it, but they want the owner to spend it, not hoard it away.

Miami Heat could look drastically different next season

Chris Paul posts emotional tribute to Kobe Bryant

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Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant were tight.

The shocking death of Kobe Bryant — along with his daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash — hit CP3 hard and the point guard missed his first game of the year Monday, sitting out as he tried to come to grips with it all. Kobe and Paul won Gold Medals together, their kids were friends, and they competed fiercely against each other on the court. 

Tuesday night, Paul posted this personal tribute to Kobe.

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I don't know if I'll ever be able to fully process it. My parents have always said everything happens for a reason and its in God’s plan. But this one is different. Broken fingers, torn Achilles, it didn’t matter. You overcame it all!! You were DIFFERENT! Sometimes we competed so hard against each other that you could never tell how I was always watching YOU!! I needed to see how much better I needed to get and how much harder I needed to work! The love you had for the game was nowhere near the love you had for YOUR girls!! All 5 of them!! And Gigi, who we had already prearranged her marriage with lil Chris, is as beautiful and feisty as she could ever be!!! As I’ve watched you in retirement, as happy as you’ve ever been, I’ve sat back and prayed and hoped that my baby girl will look at me the way Gigi looks at you!!! I Love You and will miss you with all my heart my brother!!! All my love to Vanessa and all the families during this time 🙏🏾 #Mamba4Life #Mambacita

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Like Paul, a lot of us are struggling to process it all.

Watch Jerry West’s emotional memories of trading for/his relationship with Kobe Bryant

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Jerry West has never understood why people thought he was brilliant for recognizing the talent of a 17-year-old Kobe Bryant coming out of high school. To him it was obvious.

If it had been obvious (and if that era had not frowned on the development that came with drafting high school players), Kobe wouldn’t have been a Laker, and NBA history might be very different.

For West, Kobe was not just another player, he was like a son. West talked about it on the well done TNT special commemorating Kobe Tuesday night.

What those neatly packaged TNT clip does not show is just how difficult and emotional it was for West to talk about Kobe.

West has had a life of incredible highs, but also more lows and pain than many — abused by his father and battling depression his entire life — and this is another emotional tax on the NBA legend.

Joel Embiid returns to Philadelphia rotation after nine-game absence

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When you saw the image of Joel Embiid‘s dislocated ring finger facing a direction no finger should face, you knew he was going to miss some time (even though he had it taped up and returned to that game). Embiid had surgery to repair a torn radial collateral ligament on the ring finger of his left hand. Ultimately he missed nine games while he recovered.

Tuesday night against the Warriors, Embiid will be back.

He will have a soft wrap on his left hand that has been cleared by the league.

Philadelphia went 6-3 while Embiid was out.

Ben Simmons stepped up — in his last five games (before Tuesday) he averaged 24 points a game on 70.6 percent shooting, plus 10 rebounds and 8.6 assists a game. Without Embiid in the paint or taking up touches, Simmons took over the offense and looked much more comfortable in his role.

However, the Sixers’ offensive rating in those nine Embiid-less games was 104.9, 29th in the NBA (even in the last five it was 103.2, still 29th in the league). Simmons may have been playing better but the offense was not.

When Simmons and Embiid share the court this season, their offensive rating is 106.7 — not great, but better than without Embiid playing.

Victor Oladipo returns to Pacers Wednesday, likely off bench with minutes limit

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Indiana has gone 30-17 this season and sits as the five seed in the Eastern Conference — and Wednesday they get their best player back.

Victor Oladipo — the former Most Improved Player and All-NBA team member who has been out for most of a year with a right quad tendon rupture — practiced with the Pacers on Tuesday and, as expected, will make his return to the court Wednesday night against the Bulls.

Coach Nate McMillan would not say how he planned to use Oladipo but, considering the minutes limit, off the bench seems the most likely move. McMillan said the team would revisit the minutes and role after the All-Star break.

While Milwaukee has separated itself atop the East, the next five teams — Miami, Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, and Indiana — are all within 2.5 games of each other and could end up in any order. If Oladipo can return close to the All-NBA form he was in prior to his injury, the Pacers become a big threat to break out of that group. If nothing else, they become a much tougher out in the postseason.