Report: LeBron James not likely leaving Miami, but he still wants a max deal

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Here’s a surprising statistic: LeBron James has never been the highest paid player on his team.

Not in his final years in Cleveland (Zydrunas Ilgauskas) and not in Miami.

Now, he wants that to change. With Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron all opting out In Miami nobody around the league expects LeBron to bolt the Heat — he’s not even taking meetings with other teams. That said, LeBron wants to get paid, reports Brian Windhorst at ESPN.

Teams that contact James will be informed that he wants no less than the maximum salary number for next season, sources said. The max number is projected to be $22.2 million….

If James follows through with his demands for a deal starting at the full max number and the Heat also re-sign Bosh and Wade, then Miami will likely not be left with appreciable salary-cap space even if Wade and Bosh accept pay cuts.

However, there are scenarios where the Heat could re-sign all three players plus veterans Udonis Haslem and Ray Allen and still be able to use the $5.3 million midlevel exception, the $2 million biannual exception and a $2.2 million trade exception to bring in some new role players.

How flexible will LeBron be becomes the question. Would he take $20 million a year and have an opt-out after three years again? Still then it would take Wade and Bosh taking more like $15 million a year to give Pat Riley the ability to sign anybody of consequence, outside using just the exceptions at his disposal. If the Heat — more specifically if LeBron, Wade and Bosh — are serious about signing name free agents such as a Luol Deng or Pau Gasol (not to mention the more expensive Kyle Lowry) they are going to need to make some sacrifices.

My guess is the Heat’s three stars have already hashed out the numbers, at least in a rough form, and when they speak to Riley just after midnight they will lay out a coordinated plan.

Then it will be on Riley to do some recruiting.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.

Watch Lakers fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
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It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.