Rich Paul says LeBron James considers agency and clients ‘family’

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LeBron James trusts his agent, Rich Paul.

That became clear this summer when Paul took fee agent meeting on LeBron’s behalf while LeBron vacationed. Not many players facing such a large decision would take a backseat at any point of the process.

And not many believed in Paul, who was LeBron’s friend before becoming his agent in 2012. It seemed LeBron was just empowering someone close to him rather than hiring the best agent (though a closer look revealed otherwise).

Also working against perception of Paul: Eric Bledsoe’s summer.

Paul represents the Suns guard who spent most of the offseason stuck between restricted free agency and a hard place. Bledsoe refused to sign Phoenix’s four-year, $48 million offer and threatened to accept the qualifying to hit restricted free agency.

A lot of people chose sides – many picking against Paul’s ability to handle the situation.

Few players speak out about how teams and other players should handle free agency, but LeBron did. He was firmly in Paul’s and Bledsoe’s corner.

He encouraged the Suns to pay Bledsoe, and when the Suns did to the tune of five years and $70 million, LeBron congratulated Bledsoe and Paul.

Paul, via Chris Haynes of The Plain Dealer:

“When LeBron said ‘We,’ he meant us. That being myself, LeBron, Eric and the rest of the guys I represent. No one is telling other players that they don’t know what they’re doing when they choose to sign with other agents, so why is it that way with us? Not to mention that we are producing results. So, that’s all he meant. We’re a family.”

You’ll also on occasion find him hanging out and socializing with his clients, something most agents tend to avoid.

“Well, that’s what they (agents) choose to do,” he said while shrugging his shoulders. “There’s an age and interest difference for a lot of them. It’s not an agent-player relationship all the time. We’re all young men that are in business together. That’s how it is and it’s unique. At the same time, I understand it, but again, there’s no right or wrong way to represent a client.

“I’m 33 years old. If a guy is 24, chances are we listen to the same music and like some of the same clothes. We may do things together and hang out. It’s a false perception of what that relationship should look like. That thinking has been set upon us to create this difference between players so that the player perceives the agent as all business. Other agents have fun, too. Players just aren’t interested in doing the things they do.

It’s an interesting set up – one that seems to be working for Paul, LeBron and Bledsoe.

I’m curious how it will affect Tristan Thompson, another Paul client and teammate of LeBron. Thompson, a borderline starter, is eligible for a contract extension.

Do the Cavaliers want to enter tough negotiations with someone LeBron considers family? Or would they rather just overpay Thompson to appease LeBron?

Nets hire Hawks’ Peterson as assistant general manager

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Brooklyn Nets have hired Jeff Peterson as their assistant general manager.

Peterson replaces Trajan Langdon, who was hired as the New Orleans Pelicans’ GM.

Peterson spent seven seasons in the front office of the Atlanta Hawks, the last three as assistant general manager. He worked there with Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson, who was an assistant to coach Mike Budenholzer.

Nets general manager Sean Marks says Saturday that Peterson is an “innovative basketball executive” whose “extensive scouting and front office experience” will be assets to a Nets team that lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Warriors open as big betting favorites to win NBA title over Raptors

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Kevin Durant is going to be out to start the series, with no exact timetable on his return.

The Toronto Raptors were very impressive — with Kawhi Leonard leading the way and a fantastic halfcourt defense — in eliminating the Milwaukee Bucks.

None of that changes the overall picture — the Golden State Warriors are heavy favorites to win the NBA Finals.

The Warriors are -320 to win the NBA title, the Raptors +260 at the Ceasars Palace sportsbook. What that means for non-gamblers is you have to bet $320 to win $100 on the Warriors, while a $100 bet on the Raptors wins $260.

The Warriors are also 1.5 point favorites to win Game 1 on the road without Durant and coming off a nine-day layoff where rust is to be expected.

Toronto won both regular season meetings between these teams, but both games also were before Christmas.

These lines are the respect the Warriors have earned with two straight titles, three in four years, and a sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers. The Warriors are a dynasty led by Stephen Curry, the Raptors in their first finals, these betting lines were to be expected, and they will follow general public sentiment.

Charles Barkley, on the other hand, picks the Raptors in an upset. Do with that information what you will.

Giannis Antetokounmpo walks out of postgame press conference

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Giannis Antetokounmpo wants to win, wants to make the NBA Finals. Badly. As in he could walk if the Bucks don’t do that in the next couple of years.

Antetokounmpo already showed he was willing to walk — he did so right out of his postgame press conference Saturday night after the Bucks were eliminated from the playoffs by the Raptors.

Khris Middleton‘s “you just leaving me here” face is the best part of this video.

Chalk that up to frustration, on a couple of levels. The question is legitimate — how much this experience helps the Bucks grow and fuels their offseason will say a lot about where they are as a team in a year — but it’s also understandable that in the moment the Greek Freak doesn’t want to talk about it. Or, really, in that spot have the perspective to do the question justice. Middleton went on to say, “hopefully, we learn from this.”

The other part of this is that the reporter, Malika Andrews, wrote a story at ESPN about how Antetokounmpo making the Finals would play a big role in if he stays or not in Milwaukee past this contract. That is not the narrative Antetokounmpo wants out there about him, and sometimes this is how players deal with reporters who write things they don’t like.

Antetokounmpo is one of the league’s good guys, don’t expect this to become a trend.

Report: Making 2020 NBA Finals could swing whether Giannis Antetokounmpo signs super-max extension with Bucks

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The honeymoon between Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks is over.

Milwaukee’s superb season ended tonight with a Game 6 loss to the Raptors in the Eastern Conference finals. Already, attention is turning to the 2020 offseason, when Antetokounmpo can sign a five-year super-max extension that projects to be worth $250 million. If he doesn’t, the pressure will turn way up as he approaches unrestricted free agency in 2021.

Antetokounmpo is already applying some.

Malika Andrews of ESPN:

a source close to Antetokounmpo said that getting to the NBA Finals is not just an ambition, it could tip the scales as he weighs his contractual future.

And if they can reach the NBA Finals next season, the Bucks can improve their chances of signing Antetokounmpo to the supermax in the summer of 2020.

Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and Malcolm Brogdon will be free agents this summer. It’s unclear how much luxury tax Milwaukee is willing to pay.

This leak could be Antetokounmpo trying to convince the Bucks to pay to keep this team intact.

Would he actually leave Milwaukee? At every turn, he has praised the city and organization. But the Bucks have also been on an upward trajectory for years. As they get closer to the top, it becomes more difficult to maintain that positive momentum. They’re now entering a crucial season with the clear goal of a conference title. That doesn’t leave much room for error.

The Lakers are rumored to be plotting to get Antetokounmpo. If there are signs he’ll actually become available, many other teams will line up just for a chance to sign him. Antetokounmpo is a special player, a superstar at age 24.

He also needed this loss. Having never advanced past the first round before this year, he didn’t fully grasp the high level of play and intensity this deep into playoffs. He hadn’t felt the heartache of coming so close and falling short, a highly effective motivator. Raptors like Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol had already faced these tests, and that had a lot to do with Toronto winning.

I have no doubt this experience will make Antetokounmpo even better.

Antetokounmpo wants to ensure the Bucks match his desire to win. If they do, he and Milwaukee will remain committed to each other. The honeymoon isn’t the end.

But this is when it gets real.