Kevin Love, even injured, still holds all the leverage over Cavaliers

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Kevin Love will miss the rest of the playoffs, and the high end of his recovery timeline could keep him out through the start of next season.

Does this put a dent on his possible pending free agency?

Nope – at least not as far as the Cavaliers are concerned.

Just as before Kelly Olynyk yanked out his shoulder, Love should still exercise his player option. He’s safe, because Cleveland has nowhere else to turn.

By opting out, Love stands to gain money, protection and flexibility.

He’s slated to earn $16,744,218 next season, but his max salary for next season projects to be $19,027,800. That’s true whether he re-signs or signs elsewhere, signs for one year or five. His max starting salary does not change.

So, even if Love believes having one season remaining on his contract with Cleveland – the scenario if he doesn’t opt out – is ideal, he could give himself a $2,283,582 raise by opting out and then re-signing on a new one-year deal.

Of course, if he’s going to do that, he might as well add a second season with a player option. That’d give him a little protection if, for whatever reason, he’s not primed for free agency in 2016 when the new national TV contracts kick in.

And if Love goes that route, he might as well listen to other offers while a free agent. Maybe he likes Cleveland, but what would it hurt to hear out other teams?

At that point, Love could decide between several options, including (based on the latest salary-cap projections):

  • Signing a five-year contract with the Cavaliers worth about $109.4 million
  • Signing a two-year contract with a player option with the Cavaliers worth about $39.5 million
  • Signing a four-year contract elsewhere worth about $81.2 million
  • Signing a two-year contract with a player option elsewhere worth about $38.9 million

If he takes the short-term deal and opts out in 2016, he could get:

  • About $145.1 million over five years by re-signing with the Cavaliers
  • About $107.8 million over four years by signing elsewhere

So, it’s clear why Love should opt out if he can generate a max offer. But can he still get the max considering his injury?

Yes – at minimum, surely from Cleveland. The Cavaliers would have nowhere else to turn in free agency if they lost Love.

Let’s make some assumptions (using data from Basketball Insiders):

  • The salary cap comes in at the projected $67.1 million.
  • Love opts out and signs elsewhere.
  • LeBron James opts out to re-sign a new two-year contract with a player option.
  • J.R. Smith opts in for $6,399,750.
  • Mike Miller opts in for $2,854,940.
  • Tristan Thompson re-signs at a starting salary at or above his free-agent amount ($12,846,075), so the Cavaliers hold off making it official until other business is done.
  • The Cavaliers exercise Timofey Mozgov’s $4,.95 million team option.
  • The Cavaliers waive Brenan Haywood’s fully unguaranteed contract.
  • The Cavaliers renounce free agents James Jones, Shawn Marion and Kendrick Perkins.
  • The Cavaliers don’t extend Iman Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova qualifying offers and instead renounce them.

Only the last bullet goes against my predictions, but I’m trying to give Cleveland as much flexibility as reasonably possible.

Under that scenario, the Cavaliers would be $11,133,657 over the cap. So, they’d have only the $5,464,000 non-taxpayer mid-level exception to replace Love if they lost him. And that’s being optimistic. Depending how everything shakes out, they very well could have just the $3,376,000 taxpayer MLE.

Either way, that’s not nearly enough to secure a strong replacement for Love.

Cleveland could try moving other salary or trading for a new power forward rather than signing one, but that’s just going to expend assets and/or create new holes while likely leading to a power forward still considerably worse than Love.

So, the Cavaliers essentially must do whatever it takes to re-sign Love – giving him any contract he desires if he opts out.

Plus, if they re-sign Love, they can keep Haywood as a trade chip, re-sign Shumpert and Dellavedova without worrying about cap space and use the MLE on someone else.

Love might not get as many suitors outside Cleveland as he hoped due this injury, because any dollar another team doesn’t spend on Love is a dollar it can spend elsewhere. That isn’t true for the Cavaliers, who have his Bird Rights and can exceed the cap to re-sign him at any price up to a max contract.

And that’s just a sober assessment of the situation.

In reality, emotion and perception matter.

The Cavaliers traded Andrew Wiggins for Love. You think they want to suffer the indignity of losing Love after just one year?

Plus, they offered the best trade package for Love for a reason. Maybe something has changed, but I doubt that much has changed. Cleveland liked Love and still should.

He’s having a down year, but he’s still a borderline All-NBA forward, which speaks to just how good he is. His production – shooting, rebounding, passing – is elite. At 26, he should have several good years ahead of him once he heals.

Still, it’s possible this shoulder injury scares off teams. I doubt it and, without knowing specific medical information, would lean toward it being a mistake. But it’s possible.

It’s essentially impossible, though, the Cavaliers could adequately replace Love if he leaves this summer. They can’t afford to be scared off.

So, he should opt out.

He’ll have at least one – probably more – max-contract offers to choose from. And they’ll pay more than he would have made by opting in.

The injury doesn’t change that.

Pistons reportedly reach buyout with Reggie Jackson, he’s headed to Clippers

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Reggie Jackson came to Detroit to be the outside to Andre Drummond‘s inside. That never panned out, in part due to a rash of injuries to Jackson that kept a lot over a couple of those seasons.

Drummond has been traded to Cleveland, and with that it was time for the Pistons to move on from Jackson as well. As had been rumored was coming, the Pistons and Jackson have agreed to a buyout, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

And, once he clears waivers, he is headed to the Clippers.

Jackson has only played in 14 games this season due to injury but has averaged 14.9 points and 5.1 assists a game when he has played, plus is shooting 37.8 percent from three. Jackson is making $18 million this season, the final year of a five-year, $80 million contract he inked back in 2015. He is a free agent this summer.

Why the Clippers? They are contenders, and Jackson is friends with Paul George.

The Clippers get two things out of this. First, they get a third point guard who can spell Patrick Beverley 10-12 minutes a night down the stretch (and fill in if Beverley suffers an injury). Second, the Clippers keep a playmaking guard away from the Lakers.

Detroit saves a little money and takes another step to clear the roster for a rebuild. They have Derrick Rose and Brandon Knight at the point guard spot, don’t be surprised if they call up a few guys from the G-League to see if they can find a longer-term option.

Adam Silver acknowledges ratings drop as NBA tries to connect young viewers to broadcasts

NBA commissioner Adam Silver
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One of the NBA’s great strengths is its core audience is younger than the other major American sports.

One of the NBA’s great challenges is its core audience is younger than the other major American sports.

That means a lot of NBA fans are cord cutters — or, never had a cord to begin with — and don’t consume their entertainment the way their parents and grandparents did. Much the way we do a poor job measuring the economy by doing it the same way we did a century ago, using traditional Neilson rating measures is a poor way to judge the number of eyeballs on a game. Viewership is evolving.

But make no mistake, traditional ratings are down for the NBA, both nationally and at the regional level. Nationwide ratings are down by 12 percent, including 13 percent on TNT and 16 percent on ABC. On the regional level, the Sports Business Journal reports ratings are down by 13 percent. That is due to some big drops in certain markets (the Bay Area, for example), while the NBA says that ratings are up in 13 of the 28 markets that have reliable Neilson numbers (28 cities because Toronto and Denver are not included, the latter of which has a coverage/cable dispute that has much of the greater Denver region unable to view games at home).

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver owned the drop during All-Star weekend. He added that while the league could blame injuries to players that would be draws  — Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson with the Warriors, Zion Williamson with the Pelicans, Kevin Durant in Brooklyn, etc. — the bigger issue is connecting those younger viewers to NBA broadcasts.

“It’s well-known that on one hand we’re celebrated by some because we have such a young fan base, but that young fan base is disconnecting from pay television in record numbers, and by disconnecting, not just simply not subscribing to cable or so-called cutting the cord, they’re not watching traditional paid television the way they used to,” Silver said during his All-Star weekend press conference. “They’re watching over-the-top streaming services. They’re watching screens, but it’s not essentially pay TV.

“So the good news for the league is that, when we look at all other data points, particularly what we see in social media, what we see in terms of distribution of highlights and general chatter around our games, we’ve never been more popular. But we haven’t found a way to connect those young fans to our broadcast through whatever platform they’re going to be delivered.

“Again, I think it’s a very solvable problem. Our two primary media partners, Disney and AT&T, are both very engaged in these issues…

“So it’s not an issue unique to the NBA. We may be affected by it a little bit more compared to some properties because we have such a young fan base, but I’m super confident over time we’ll work through it because there remains enormous interest in our players and our game.”

Silver also showed at the NBA’s tech summit where he thinks the broadcast of NBA games is headed, trying to bring the courtside experience into the home (with an assist from Bill Murray).

Silver isn’t alone in thinking this way. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, for one, said basically the same thing recently.

A well-respected media consultant recently told Forbes magazine he doesn’t think this ratings downturn is going to hurt the league in 2025 when it’s time to negotiate a new broadcast deal.

“This season’s NBA ratings story is silly. It is a small sample size. This is a year-round league with year-round stories,” says sports media consultant Lee Berke of LHB Sports. “The next NBA media agreements will be a substantially evolved set of deals because of streaming. There will be an increasing range of media companies that want the NBA for the U.S. and worldwide.”

The current $2.7 billion per year NBA deal with ESPN and TNT runs through the 2024-25 season, and Berke expects the next deal to roughly double in value.

That’s the vision Adam Silver sees. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to connect those young viewers to the content. Then to stop measuring viewership the way our grandparents did.

Report: Larry Drew wanted to quit as Cavaliers coach during last year’s All-Star break

Former Cavaliers coach Larry Drew
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John Beilein is reportedly considering resigning as Cavaliers coach.

This makes the second straight season Cleveland’s coach contemplated departing at the All-Star break.

After firing Tyronn Lue in October 2018, the Cavs named Larry Drew interim coach. He immediately rejected the the title. Following an awkward week of Drew acting as the Cavaliers’ head coach but insisting he wasn’t head coach, they eventually paid him enough to accept the role. After the season ended, the Cavs and Drew parted ways.

His exit could have come sooner.

Joe Vardon of The Athletic:

He wanted to quit at the All-Star break last year on Cleveland. He just wanted to leave, wanted to have them promote whoever their G League coach is.

Larry Drew had more than a million dollars coming his way, and he was talked out of this, I think by his agent. Like, “You cannot do this.” Like,” It’s insane. You can’t leave now. Just stick it out.”

Beilein obviously has his own unique issues. But this reflects quite poorly on the Cavaliers.

Losing obviously factors. Cleveland is just starting to build up post-LeBron James. It’ll take time.

But plenty of teams rebuild and lose. They usually don’t have consecutive coaches ready to quit.

Owner Dan Gilbert and general manager Koby Altman better take a hard look at what’s failing culturally.

‘There’s a possibility’ DeMarcus Cousins returns to Lakers for playoffs

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It remains a real longshot, but Lakers’ coach Frank Vogel isn’t shutting the door.

DeMarcus Cousins has not stepped on the court this season for the Lakers, having torn his left ACL in workouts over the summer. He’s still at Staples Center nearly every game, and is working on his rehab.

Deep into his press availability Saturday, Lakers’ coach Frank Vogel was asked if it’s possible Cousins could return this summer (hat tip to Sam Quinn of CBS Sports for noticing).

“He’s on track to get healthy by the playoffs, and we’ll have to see where he’s at with rhythm and conditioning and timing and all that stuff,” Vogel said. “But there’s a possibility he returns this season, yes.”

As much as Cousins is hungry for a ring, don’t bet on getting any serious run. The Lakers are legit title contenders who have gotten good play out of JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard at center this season, and in the playoffs they likely will lean even more on Anthony Davis at the five (with LeBron James playing more four). Mix Cousins into that and it could throw off the rotations and rhythm of the team just as they enter the postseason.

How much Cousins could help the Lakers also would be up for debate. In last season’s NBA Finals, when Cousins was with Golden State, he was forced into heavier minutes because of injuries to Kevon Looney. While he had a strong Game 2 for them in a win — 11 points and 10 rebounds — for most of the series he hurt the Warriors. Cousins averaged 8.3 points and 4.7 rebounds a game, but shot 42.5 percent overall, 22.2 percent from three, and was a bigger liability on the other end of the court where the Raptors repeatedly attacked him through the pick-and-roll. The Warriors were offensively better with a very limited Looney on the court, once he was able to return.

Cousins is not the most mobile of players at this point, not surprising coming off an Achilles and ACL injury, but opposing teams will show no mercy.

Still, the door is open. If Cousins can get some run in less-stressful minutes and get his legs under him, who knows what we might see deep in the Lakers’ playoff run.