Cavaliers GM expects LeBron James and Kevin Love to both opt out, become free agents, stay with Cavs

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The Cavaliers exceeded expectations this year, especially once both Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were lost at different points in the playoffs with season-ending injuries.

Theoretically, if the team had remained fully healthy, there’s no telling how things may have played out. There’s hope in Cleveland to see about that next year, but there’s a lot of uncertainty with regard to the future of the roster.

LeBron James and Kevin Love have player options for next season, and can both choose to become unrestricted free agents. Cavaliers GM David Griffin says he expects them to do exactly that — before ultimately re-signing.

From Jason Lloyd of Ohio.com:

Griffin said Thursday he expects both James and Kevin Love to become free agents later this month and expects both to return next season. Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova will receive qualifying offers, making them restricted free agents that will allow the Cavs to match any offers they receive in free agency. Griffin would like to keep all three, essentially maintaining the core of a team that won 53 games and advanced to the Finals for the second time in team history.

“We very much intend to keep this group together,” Griffin said. “You look at that as a group that has the potential to be special, special good.”

The most likely outcome for James is for him to opt out to get a raise of a few million dollars for next season on a max deal under the increased salary cap, while once again keeping a player option on a deal for the following season. This type of structure will continue to give James a maximum amount of earning potential, while keeping the pressure on the Cavaliers franchise to continue to make improvements to the roster at the very same time.

Things are far less clear where Love is concerned. He could structure his next contract in similar fashion, and that may make the most sense. But if he were to want to lock down some financial security for the future with something approaching a five-year contract worth the max, the franchise would have a difficult decision on its hands.

There are role-players like J.R. Smith who will more than likely opt out as well, and there are restricted free agents Iman Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova who the Cavaliers have the right to retain, but may choose not to if the market dictates a higher-than-expected value for their services.

There’s work to be done with this Cavaliers roster, in order to bulletproof it for the rigors of next season. It all starts with LeBron and Love, however, and how they choose to structure their next deals will be extremely interesting to watch.

Knicks’ Obi Toppin out at least 2-3 weeks with knee fracture

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Obi Toppin is a fan favorite and Knicks faithful were hoping to see more of him as the season progresses.

However, they are not going to see any of him for at least the next 2-3 weeks due to a fractured knee, the team announced.

Toppin suffered the injury in New York’s win Wednesday over Atlanta, the same game that saw Dejounte Murray sprain his ankle leading him to be out for a few weeks.

Toppin — the reigning All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk contest champion — is averaging 7.7 points in 25 games off the bench. With him out, coach Tom Thibodeau suggested he could lean more on RJ Barrett, asking him to play up at the four.

Report: Zach LaVine not available for trade from Bulls

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Front offices of potential contenders from Los Angeles to Philadelphia have their eyes on the Chicago Bulls — will the struggling Bulls pivot to chase Victor Wembanyama and the top of the lottery, making them sellers at the trade deadline? Teams have interest in Chicago’s three stars: Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic.

Except just-extended LaVine isn’t currently available, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Wednesday on his network’s pregame show discussing the Knicks.

“The Knicks will be watching Chicago. Is Zach LaVine a player who before the deadline possibly can become available? He certainly isn’t now.”

Chicago is not yet ready to pivot to tanking, so none of its stars are truly available. That said, the Bulls don’t look like a playoff team, they miss Lonzo Ball, and even if things do come together where do they stand in the East hierarchy? If the Bulls do become sellers, they aren’t going to tear this team down to the studs, it would likely be trading just one star. Possibly a second if the offer was strong enough.

LaVine — who signed a five-year, $215 million extension this past summer — is the least likely to be available, league sources have told NBC Sports. The expectation is that Vucevic would be the Bull first made available if the Bulls decide to start seriously listening to offers. And that remains an “if.”

That said, front offices around the league have their eyes trained on Chicago.

Dejounte Murray added to growing Hawks injury report, out 2-3 weeks with sprained ankle

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John Collins is out for at least another week with a sprained ankle. DeAndre Hunter has been out with a strained hip flexor.

Now you can add Dejounte Murray to the Hawks’ growing injury report, he is out at least 2-3 weeks with a sprained ankle, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic report.

The injury happened on a closeout from RJ Barrett of the Knicks.

The Hawks have already had chemistry and fit issues this season, and missing key players for an extended period only exacerbates the problem. Atlanta looked flat getting their doors blown off by the Knicks Wednesday night, 113-89, a game that added to a string where they have lost 5-of-7. Now they will have to find a way to right the ship without their second-best playmaker.

There also is an update on the Hawks’ play-by-play announcer Bob Rathbun.

NBA, WNBA players react to news Brittney Griner coming home

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Brittney Griner is finally coming home.

The WNBA and USA Basketball star has spent 10 months in Russian prisons — including being convicted and sent to a Russian penal colony — for having vape canisters with small amounts of cannabis oil in her luggage as she went through Russian airport security back in February. She became a political pawn in the tensions between the United States and Russia, mostly surrounding Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, and was freed via a prisoner swap announced Thursday.

The basketball world — WNBA players in particular — had worked to keep her name front and not let Griner be forgotten during this ordeal, pushing President Joe Biden and the government to reach a deal. With the news Griner was freed, NBA and WNBA players took to social media to react.

“Brittney has had to endure an unimaginable situation and we’re thrilled that she is on her way home to her family and friends,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “We thank the members of the NBA and WNBA community who never wavered in their efforts to raise awareness of Brittney’s unjust circumstances.”

“We are overwhelmed with relief and gratitude that our sister Brittney Griner is finally coming home,” the NBPA said in a statement. “Her strength and courage throughout this last year have been truly remarkable, as have the efforts of her wife Cherelle, our WNBPA sisters, Terri Jackson and the WNBPA staff, who have been relentless in their call to bring Brittney home. We know this homecoming would not have been possible without their unwavering support and continued work to keep BG always top of mind, and our players are honored to have contributed to those efforts. While this is a celebratory moment for our sisters and us, we must not forget the other political prisoners who remain in dire circumstances all over the world. These individuals must be remembered and fought for every single day as BG was so that they too can have this moment. Welcome home Brittney, we are so happy to have you back! #WeAreBG”