Jazz expected to match Hornets’ max contract offer to Gordon Hayward, which is absolutely the right decision

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The Hornets gave Gordon Hayward an offer sheet of a four-year max contract, and while nothing can be signed until the NBA’s free agency moratorium period ends on July 10, he has reportedly agreed to sign it when the time comes.

The Jazz have said all along that the plan was to match any offer Hayward received, and multiple reports confirmed this again once the news of the agreement between Hayward and Charlotte became publicly official.

The money being thrown at Hayward may seem excessive at first glance — $63 million guaranteed over four years, although the last year is a player option that may see Hayward choose to leave in free agency before Utah is officially on the hook for that final $16.7 million.

But should the Jazz match as expected, it’s absolutely the right decision.

It’s worth noting that just because we call all four- or five-year contracts “maximum,” that doesn’t mean that they’re all worth the same. They’re the maximum length allowed under the collective bargaining agreement, but the amount depends on how long a player has been in the league, and whether they re-sign with their current team or leave to go somewhere else.

Carmelo Anthony’s four-year max, for example, should he leave the Knicks to sign with someone like the Lakers, is $97 million — far more than Hayward’s number of $63 million, which is necessary to point out to provide some perspective.

It’s still a lot for Hayward, but there’s a reason teams like the Hornets and the Jazz are willing to offer it — they simply don’t have a lot of other choices.

The next marquee free agent that voluntarily chooses to play for the Jazz will be the first. Star-level players never even consider Utah when free agency comes, so if the Jazz are fortunate enough to draft well, they need to overpay for that level of talent if they want to entice it to stay.

Restricted free agency is in place for precisely this reason, to give small market teams a chance to hang onto their rookies for up to seven seasons. That will be the case with Hayward, who has been in Utah for four years and can opt out after three more to pursue unrestricted free agency if that’s what he ultimately believes will be best.

Hayward isn’t quite an All-Star just yet, and didn’t improve as much as expected last season, despite getting a significant bump in minutes. Still, his averages of 16.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.4 steals in 36.4 minutes per contest show a more-than-solid overall game that’s worth waiting out.

As a comparison, those numbers (steals not included) were matched by only four other players in the league last season —  LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Michael Carter-Williams.

At his current level of production, and even with a small amount of projected improvement, Hayward might not be worth a max contract to teams more closely considered to be actual title contenders. But for markets like Charlotte and Utah, Hayward would be a fine signing at that amount — not only because of his acceptable relative level of talent, but also because of their somewhat limited options.

PBT Extra: Pressure falls on James Harden, Rockets’ bench with Chris Paul out

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Chris Paul is out for Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals with a strained hamstring, and that almost certainly will sideline him for Game 7 as well.

That changes the feel of this series.

The Rockets still just have to win one of the next two games to advance to the NBA Finals, and one of those is at home. However, without CP3 a couple of things need to happen. James Harden needs to find his shooting stroke. Gerald Green and the Rockets’ bench needs to step up. And Houston has to keep defending the way they have the last two games.

It’s not going to be easy (especially on the road in Game 6), but the Rockets still have a real opportunity to advance to the NBA Finals.

Watch all of LeBron James’ 46 points in Game 6

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There is going to be a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals Sunday because of LeBron James.

George Hill had a strong game (20 points), Jeff Green and Larry Nance Jr. had their moments, but it was all about LeBron — 46 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists in 46 brilliant minutes.

Rather than try to describe his game to you — including the dagger threes late — just watch.

And enjoy. There are still some people out there (mostly on Twitter, it seems) who just want to tear LeBron down for some reason. I pity them. Not just because they are wrong, although they are. Rather, it’s because they are depriving themselves of enjoying one of the greatest players ever to lace them up. LeBron can bully people in the paint, hit step back threes, is as gifted a passer as the game has seen, and just plays a smart, high-IQ game we have got to watch grow over the years. If you can’t enjoy that, you don’t love basketball.

LeBron James is a force nature, scores 46, wills Cavaliers to win forcing Game 7

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What more can be said about the brilliance of LeBron James?

We can point to his 46 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists Friday night in a win-or-go-fishing elimination game. We can point to how he lifted the team up when Kevin Love went down after a blow to the head (more on that later). We could talk about how this is his seventh 40+ point game of the playoffs, the last guy to do that since Michael Jordan in 1989 (when Jordan was 25 and had yet to win a title).

Or, we can just show you his back-to-back dagger threes in the fourth quarter over Jayson Tatum.

That is art on a basketball court.

LeBron got a little help Friday night at home, and with that the Cavaliers won Game 6 109-99, forcing a Game 7 back in Boston on Sunday night.

“It feels good just to play for another game, and like I’ve always said ‘Game 7’ is the best two words in sports,” LeBron said. “And for us to be on the road in a hostile environment where we have had no success up to this point, we should relish the opportunity and have fun with it.”

LeBron was nothing short of brilliant (remember 10-12 years ago people were trying to say he was afraid of the big moment, damn that sounds silly now). He is historically brilliant in Game 7s, but he can’t do it alone.

George Hill, the second best shot creator on the team, had 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Jeff Green had 14 off the bench, and Larry Nance Jr. had a timely 10 points and 7 rebounds.

Nance’s play was crucial because Kevin Love went down 5 minutes into the game after banging heads with Jayson Tatum while setting a screen.

Love’s was being checked for a concussion and his status for Game 7 is not known. (If he does have a concussion, it’s unlikely he clears the league protocol in time to play in two days.)

Despite LeBron and all of it, the Celtics had their chances in this one.

Boston got off to a fast start because Jaylen Brown had 15 first-quarter points and the Celtics shot 61 percent as a team, none of which seemed sustainable but it got them out to a 25-20 lead after one. Then the Cavaliers came on in the second with a 20-4 run behind LeBron, and once they had the lead the Cavaliers never let it go.

Boston will look back on not grabbing rebounds — Cleveland grabbed the offensive rebound on 36.6 percent of their missed shots, a very high percentage — and the fact the Celtics missed nine free throws and think things could have been different.

Boston is going home, where they are 10-0 these playoffs and for some reason inexplicable even to Brad Stevens, they play much better. The Celtics have a great defense, smart players, and a real chance.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have LeBron James. That may be enough.

“We have one more game to be able to compete for a championship, what more can you ask for?” LeBron said.

Kevin Love being evaluated for concussion, out for second half

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It happened just five minutes into the game — Cleveland’s Kevin Love and Boston’s Jayson Tatum banged heads.

Love was in the midpost and part of his job was to set a screen for George Hill, who was racing out to the arc. In doing so, Love and Tatum banged heads and it wasn’t pretty.

Love spent a few minutes on the ground, went straight to the locker room, and has not returned to the game.

Tatum did not leave the game.

There still is no official word on if Love has a concussion. If he does, he will go into the league’s mandated concussion protocol — which means to be cleared he has to be symptom free through a series of physical tests — and it would be a challenge for him to be back for a Game 7, if there is one.

And their likely will be one. After struggling in the rest of the first quarter without Love, the Cavaliers have gotten solid performances out of Hill, Jeff Green, and of course, LeBron James has been brilliant. The Cavaliers have a comfortable 15-point lead late in the third quarter.