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

President Donald Trump awarding Medal of Freedom to NBA star Bob Cousy

Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
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WASHINGTON (AP) President Donald Trump is set to present basketball legend Bob Cousy (KOO’-zee) with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The award is being handed out Thursday. It celebrates individuals with a wide range of achievements and is the nation’s highest civilian honor.

The 91-year-old Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame member played for the Boston Celtics from 1950 to 1963. He won six league championships and the 1957 MVP title.

Cousy is also known for speaking out against racism. He was an ardent supporter of black teammates who faced discrimination during the civil rights movement.

Cousy will be the second person to receive the award this year from Trump. Golfer Tiger Woods received the honor in May.

Report: Shelly Sterling, members of Clippers organization heard Donald Sterling audio in advance and didn’t act

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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In 2014, published audio of a racist rant by then-Clippers owner Donald Sterling rocked the country.

It shouldn’t have. Sterling’s racism and sexism were well-established by then. But few cared. The audio poured gasoline on the fire and moved people to act. I wish it didn’t require that. But it did.

What if the audio didn’t become public through TMZ? Apparently, there might have been opportunity for another outcome.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

The fact is Shelly and several people in the Clippers organization heard the recording and decided not to act on it or weren’t appalled enough to act on it. Maybe they didn’t understand how big a splash this tape could make.

It’s unclear when Shelly Sterling (Donald’s wife) and other members of the Clippers organization heard the audio. Maybe it was while TMZ was doing due diligence. If so, it was probably too late to change the course of history.

But perhaps it was when V. Stiviano – Donald’s girlfriend who made the original recording and was being sued by Shelly – was still the only one in possession of it. Stiviano was clearly upset with how things were going financially between her and the Sterlings. For the right price, maybe the audio would have gone away before becoming public.

I’m glad it didn’t happen that way. The world is better off knowing exactly who Donald Sterling is.

Yet, this leads to an incredible “what if?” What if the people who heard the audio in advance understood the magnitude, acted in Sterling’s best interest and paid to have the audio kept secret? Would Sterling still own the Clippers today?

Kyle Kuzma scores on own basket in Team USA-Australia game (video)

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The Lakers are desperate at center. They might even need Kyle Kuzma to play the position. He’ll have to work on, among other things, rebounding.

At least it usually won’t go as poorly as this play in Team USA’s exhibition win over Australia.

Rockets betting on talent of James Harden and Russell Westbrook, everything else be damned

Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images
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NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

There is a tried-and-true method for winning an NBA championship: Get two recent MVPs. It has worked every time.

The Celtics paired Bill Russell and Bob Cousy. Won a title.

The 76ers paired Moses Malone and Julius Erving. Won a title.

The Warriors paired Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. Won a title.

By acquiring 2017 MVP Russell Westbrook to join 2018 MVP James Harden, the Rockets are testing the limits of this plan.

Houston upgraded from Chris Paul to Westbrook in its trade with the Thunder. There’s certainly logic to that. Harden is in his prime, so this is the time to push in. It’s almost impossible to win a championship without stars. Stars are also hard to come by. Sometimes, you must just get whichever stars you can and hope for the best.

But Westbrook came at a significant cost.

Houston had to send Oklahoma City top-four-protected first-round picks in 2024 and 2026, a top-four-protected pick swap in 2021 and a top-10-protected pick swap in 2025. By the time most of those picks convey, the Rockets could be far worse.

The trade is salary neutral for the next three seasons, which partially explains why Houston gave up so much. Most teams would require a sweetener for taking Paul’s contract. But Westbrook’s contract runs a season longer, and the Rockets will owe him $47,063,478 at age 34.

There will be diminishing returns with Harden and Westbrook, two ball-dominant guards. They have the talent to figure it out offensively, though it will require major adjustments to how they’ve played lately. The defensive concerns are far bigger. Both players have frequent lapses on that end.

Westbrook, 30, has also declined the last few years. He remains quite good. But the way he relies on his athleticism, he could fall rapidly.

Based on name recognition on both sides, this is the most monumental trade in NBA history. In Houston, it will likely define the rest of Harden’s prime then – with those picks outgoing – the Rockets’ next phase.

Beyond that, Houston did well to build depth on a budget. The Rockets re-signed Danuel House (three years, $11,151,000 million), Austin Rivers (1+1, minimum) and Gerald Green (one year, minimum) and signed Tyson Chandler (one year, minimum). Most of the mid-level exception remains unused with the free-agent market largely dried up. But hey, luxury tax. Houston could still re-sign Iman Shumpert through Bird Rights.

The Rockets look pretty similar to last year – except Westbrook replacing Paul. That’s the enormous move.

I’m not even sure it will help next year, though. Houston could’ve kept Paul and fit squarely into a wide-open championship race. At least on paper.

The big unknown: How toxic was the relationship between Harden and Paul? Several Rockets denied a problem, but there was plenty of evidence to the contrary.

Westbrook is better than Paul. The two stars will likely get along better.

But will Westbrook add enough value to justify the high cost? All those draft considerations could have gone toward addressing other needs. Really, just needs. Houston didn’t need another ball-dominant guard one bit.

I support the Rockets prioritizing the present. Westbrook could propel them to a championship.

But given the fit concerns, the cost was too steep for my liking.

Offseason grade: C-