LeBron James sticks up for coach David Blatt. Again.

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What else was he going to say?

With the NBA Finals starting in a few days, LeBron James doesn’t want his relationship with his coach to be a distracting headline, so no matter how he really feels he’s going to stick up for his coach. And give him very conspicuously give him a hug on the sidelines late in the Game 4 sweep of Atlanta.

Monday at media availability, LeBron was again complimenting and sticking up for his coach, as reported by James Herbert of CBSSports.com’s Eye on Basketball.

“Well, any time someone is scrutinized really for nothing, I’m able to relate,” James said. “For him in his instance, obviously, we knew there were a lot of people that were going to say things that didn’t mean much, but that’s just what they have to do. That’s what helps sales.

“People love reading the negative things more than the positive things, and I think he’s handled the situation unbelievably,” he continued. “Being a rookie coach in the NBA and being able to take this team to the Finals, I think he’s done a hell of a job.”

LeBron is polished and incredibly conscious of what he says to the media — and through all the praise he has twice thrown his coach under the bus in these playoffs. When LeBron called his own number and changed the play call against the Bulls, it was LeBron who brought that up and told the media. He could have said nothing and nobody would have known outside the locker room, but he chose to make that statement. The same way he chose to question the defensive matchups Blatt had assigned earlier in the playoffs.

Two points need to be made here.

First, if LeBron wants David Blatt gone he will be gone — and people close to the Cavaliers are not sure what LeBron wants to that end.

Second, Blatt has done a good job and deserves to stay on. When you think about the role players stepping up on this team with Kevin Love out and Kyrie Irving down, some of that credit goes to Blatt for getting them in the right situation. It was Blatt who had the guts to go with James Jones over more expensive players these playoffs (hello Mike Miller!) and it has worked out. It was Blatt and the Cavs defensive schemes that dared cold Hawks shooters (Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague and so on) to beat them from three, daring Atlanta to replicate their regular season success under more pressure.

Blatt deserves to stay on. Whether he will or not, LeBron will do nothing but praise him during the Finals.

 

Minnesota signs undrafted rookie Naz Reid to multiyear deal

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Timberwolves have signed rookie center Naz Reid to a multiyear contract, upgrading the two-way deal they initially gave him before a strong performance for the team’s entry in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

The new contract, completed Thursday, all but ensures that Reid will be on the regular-season roster, after going undrafted out of LSU.

Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic broke the story.

The 6-foot-10, 250-pound Reid averaged 11.9 points and 5.4 rebounds in 18.6 minutes over seven summer league games against other clubs largely composed of rookies and second-year players. The Timberwolves’ team reached the championship game.

Reid averaged 13.6 points and a team-high 7.2 rebounds in his lone season at LSU, which reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

Bulls bring back Shaquille Harrison on one-year contract

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Shaquille Harrison started last season as an afterthought at the end of the Chicago Bulls’ bench. Then, because Cameron Payne was not good and Kris Dunn got injured (and was really not that good, either), Harrison got his chance — and took it. He was a defender Fred Hoiberg and then Jim Boylen could trust, and he played in the final 72 Bulls games last season at almost 20 minutes a night.

He will be back with the Bulls next season, the team announced.

While not announced, this is a one-year minimum contract. The Bulls waived Harrison back on July 6 as they remade the roster, but Harrison played one game at Summer League for the Bulls and they decided to bring him back.

Harrison is a Boylen favorite — he plays hard and defends well — and while minutes will be harder to come by behind Tomas Satoransky and Coby White, Harrison is a guy Boylen wants on the bench.

Dunn is on the roster at point guard, too, but the Bulls are rumored to be looking to trade him and his $5.4 million salary. Chicago will likely have to throw in a sweetener, like a decent second-round pick, to make that happen.

Nike countersues Kawhi Leonard over ‘Klaw’ logo

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“My mind on my money and my money on my mind.”
—Snoop Dogg

Nike and Kawhi Leonard are going to court over control of his “Klaw” logo, and it’s all about money and brand.

Leonard left Nike last season, eventually signing with New Balance, and he wants to be able to market his Klaw logo as part of his line with his new company. Leonard and his representatives sued Nike for control of the logo, saying Leonard came up with it in his own drawings.

Nike has countersued and said Leonard did not design the logo. Tim Bontemps of ESPN had these quotes from the countersuit itself.

“In this action, Kawhi Leonard seeks to re-write history by asserting that he created the ‘Claw Design’ logo, but it was not Leonard who created that logo. The ‘Claw Design’ was created by a talented team of NIKE designers, as Leonard, himself, has previously admitted…

“In his Complaint, Leonard alleges he provided a design to NIKE. That is true. What is false is that the design he provided was the Claw Design. Not once in his Complaint does Leonard display or attach either the design that he provided or the Claw Design. Instead, he conflates the two, making it appear as though those discrete works are one and the same. They are not.”

TMZ posted the designs.

I’m not about to guess what a judge would decide in this case. Most likely, this gets settled one way or another.

Meanwhile, New Balance is trying to come up with a new slogan for Leonard and his gear. King of the North is now out after his move to the Los Angeles Clippers this summer.

J.R. Smith reportedly meets with Bucks to talk contract

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After five seasons in Cleveland, the Cavaliers waived J.R. Smith. The 34-year-old veteran wing is not part of the Cavaliers future, and by waiving him before the guarantee date they only had to pay him $4.4 million of this $15.7 million salary.

That makes Smith a free agent.

He sat down with the Bucks on Thursday, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Bucks can only offer minimum contracts at this point.

Smith will turn 34 before next season starts and his skills are in decline, he shot just 30.8 percent from three last season. The Bucks will likely start Khris Middleton and Wesley Matthews on the wing with Sterling Brown, Pat Connaughton, and Donte DiVincenzo behind them. They have the roster spot to make the addition. The questions are does Smith fit, does he want the small role that’s really available, and how often will he wear a shirt around the facility?