LeBron James stays on sidelines while Cavaliers, Tristan Thompson talks stall out

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LeBron James has power, and he is going to wield it.

There is no thought he is going to leave the Cavaliers, but he has opted out of his contract and is a free agent right now — and he’s not talking to the Cavaliers about an extension. He’s not talking to anyone.

That includes free agents the Cavaliers are trying to recruit, such as David West. LeBron can be a fantastic draw and a closer as a recruiter because players know with him there will be wins, there will be shots at rings. But LeBron isn’t picking up the phone to recruit.

Not until his boy Tristan Thompson — who shares an agent, not so coincidentally — is inked to his new deal, and those talks are currently stalled.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN reminded us yesterday that LeBron is still sitting, waiting.

And LeBron is going to get what he wants. He’s going to stand on the side and channel Teddy KGB — “pay dat man his money” — and get his way. Tristan Thompson is going to get paid, probably more than he would otherwise (although with the salary cap spiking any deal for Thompson will not look that bad in a couple years).

All because LeBron has leverage. The Cavaliers front office and ownership cannot afford to have LeBron lose faith in them, to plant the seed that they are not up to the task of constructing a champion around LeBron. He came back once, and the odds are incredibly slim that he would leave again, but even that little risk is too big for the Cavaliers to stomach. Miami’s brass didn’t think LeBron would leave after four straight trips to the Finals. But LeBron saw a tough path to winning more rings with that core, he didn’t have power, and then there was the pull of home and an agent who had greased those skids. Cleveland cannot overplay its hand with the idea he would never leave again.

Last year it was July 11 before LeBron chose Cleveland, it could be that far into free agency before he re-signs there after opting out. LeBron is in no hurry. He will re-sign, but again on a short deal that allows him to opt out next summer and start to cash in on the new television money about to flood the NBA. LeBron is in his prime and isn’t about to take a Tim Duncan discount — quite the opposite, he wants every dollar he can get. You shouldn’t blame someone for trying to maximize their income (Dan Gilbert is a far richer man, his franchise value is through the roof, with LeBron under contract, he’s not hurting and can handle the league luxury tax he will pay).

We know how this movie is going to end. Tristan Thompson will get paid, LeBron will get paid, and next October, when the season tips off, hopes will rightfully be high in Cleveland. This little episode will all be forgotten.

Except maybe by LeBron.

 

Knicks reportedly promote assistant Mike Malone to head coach

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David Fizdale is out as the Knicks head coach after an ugly 4-18 start to the season.

Who will coach the Knicks next season depends on the answer to another question: Are team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry safe, or are they on their way out, too?

In the short term, New York will promote Mike Miller into the big chair, and bring up Keith Bogans from the G-League coaching staff to round out the roster, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Miller spent four years as the head coach of the Westchester Knicks, the franchise’s G-League affiliate, and was the G-League Coach of the Year for the 2017-18 season. He was eventually promoted to the Knicks bench.

Don’t expect a major shake-up in the Knicks’ offensive and defensive systems, or with the rotations, at least in the short term. There just are not a lot of practice days built into the NBA schedule to allow a mid-season replacement to overhaul everything. Plus, with this roster, there’s only so much a human being can do.

 

As was expected, Stephen Curry reportedly has second wrist surgery to remove pins

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This was both expected and right on schedule.

Stephen Curry said almost a month ago that he was going to need a second surgery to remove pins that were inserted during the first procedure back on Nov. 1. Curry suffered a fractured hand back on Oct. 30 when Suns’ center Aron Baynes fell on him, and in the first surgery pins were inserted to stabilize the bone through the healing process.

That second surgery has taken place, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Curry has said he fully expects to play this season, although it wouldn’t be until the end of what is a lost cause campaign for Golden State. For now, Curry is focused on recovery.

“[Managing the]swelling is something that’s going to be of the utmost priority early in the rehab process to get me a chance to come back and get my range of motion back pretty quickly,” Curry said last time he spoke to the media.

Without Curry or Klay Thompson yet this season (plus, of course, Kevin Durant on crutches in Brooklyn), and D'Angelo Russell missing a chunk of time as well due to injury, the Warriors have struggled to a 4-19 record with a bottom-five offense and defense.

The hope for the Warriors is to get Curry and Thompson back by next summer and working out, they get a high draft pick, make a couple other moves around the edges, get Draymond Green healthy, and this team is a threat again. This season it’s more like the Warriors are taking a season off to find themselves and travel the world.

Report: Knicks fire David Fizdale

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The Knicks started 2-8.

Then, it got worse.

Knicks owner James Dolan ordered president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry to address the media after a loss. Mills and Perry spoke before coach David Fizdale, a break in decorum that ignited speculation about Fizdale getting fired.

Then, it got worse.

New York lost six straight.

Then, it got worse.

After a 44-point loss to the Bucks, Fizdale said the Knicks entered the game not believing they even could win. They followed that with a 37-point home loss to the Nuggets yesterday that Fizdale called “sickening.”

Finally, with New York 4-18 and on an eight-game losing streak, the Knicks are making a major change.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

This was inevitable. Mills wanted Fizdale gone and knows how to navigate Madison Square Garden politics.

The season was already a lost cause, and it’s likely to remain a mess. Keith Smart, who previously coached the Warriors and Kings, was the only other member of the staff with NBA non-interim head-coaching experience.

The big question: Will Mills and Perry survive?

They gave Fizdale a lacking roster and outsized expectations. Nearly any coach would have been doomed to fail in this situation.

To be fair, Fizdale provided no evidence he deserved to be an exception. The Knicks lacked identity under his guidance, and development of younger players was uneven.

But the problems go way above Fizdale, starting with Dolan.

At least we’ll always have this Fizdale quote comparing the Knicks to slipping in ice, dog poop and pee.

The best song you’ll hear about Jimmy Butler bullying Andrew Wiggins into being good (video)

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Jimmy Butler was hard on Andrew Wiggins. That appeared to be the way then-Timberwolves president-coach Tom Thibodeau wanted it. Wiggins had the talent. He just needed a more productive mindset.

Thibodeau got fired. Butler is with the Heat.

But Wiggins is still in Minnesota and playing better than ever – specifically citing wanting to shut up the critics.

Do Butler and Thibodeau deserve any credit?

Wordsplayed explored that in rap form on “Off The Dribble.” He also dropped bars on the 76ers’ ceiling, James Harden‘s scoring and Carmelo Anthony‘s resurgence with the Trail Blazers.