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.

 

C.J. McCollum on his latest Warriors comments: ‘I’m happy stop making me look like a scorn man sheesh’

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Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum explained Kevin Durant signing with the Warriors with an analogy about getting jumped by a gang with your brothers then joining that gang and forgetting about your brothers. McCollum called stars passing through Golden State to win big before joining another team – a la DeMarcus Cousins – “disgusting.”

Those comments have predictably generated plenty of discussion. But McCollum dislikes how those discussions are being framed.

McCollum:

Not everything McCollum says is newsworthy. Nobody is ethically obligated to amplify every comment he makes in a lengthy interview. Everywhere I saw, McCollum’s quote was given clear context.

It’s not newsworthy McCollum called the Warriors great. We all know they’re great. That’s why their existence is controversial.

And McCollum didn’t say just that he would never join Golden State. He called it “disgusting” then elaborated many other players would have too much pride for that track. The rhetoric was sharp and wide-reaching.

I found McCollum’s comments interesting, and I’m happy he shared them. I didn’t necessarily agree, but I appreciate his perspective. The NBA is more fun when more players reveal their differing points of view.

So kudos to McCollum – and Andre Iguodala.

Iguodala:

McCollum:

McCollum totally forgot about Iguodala – but not incorrectly. Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson look like future Hall of Famers. Maybe Cousins gets there, too. But Iguodala doesn’t deserve it. He made only one All-Star game and mostly topped out at good-starter level. His Finals MVP – which should have gone to LeBron James or, if you insist on awarding a winning player, Curry – shouldn’t push Iguodala over the top.

The best part of McCollum’s Twitter defense today:

McCollum has won seven playoff games – including a series against the Clippers and a single game over the Warriors in 2016. He could have easily brought those up.

But “Im trying Jennifer” is a far more enjoyable response.

Report: Heat, Udonis Haslem nearing deal for him to return for 16th season

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Does this give us a hint about what Dwyane Wade is thinking?

Probably not. What it means is that the Heat want some depth along the front line and, more importantly, a quality presence in the locker room. They want to bring back one of the icons of the franchise.

Udonis Haslem is reportedly nearing a contract with the Miami Heat, reports Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press.

Haslem played in just 14 games for the Heat last season, and 72 total minutes. He just turned 38 and the Heat could use that roster spot to develop a young player. But this is about loyalty, and it’s a move that will play well in the locker room and with the fan base.

Wade also will like it. Whether it is an omen of his decision remains to be seen.

LeBron James on top of MVP odds rankings

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The 2018-19 NBA MVP race feels more wide open than we have seen in years.

What kind of numbers will LeBron James put up with the Lakers and how far can he lift that team? Can James Harden repeat? Is Kawhi Leonard back in MVP form? Will a new coach in Mike Budenholzer lift Giannis Antetokounmpo up to a new level? Does Russell Westbrook put up MVP numbers again?

Online betting company Bovada released these odds for the 2019 MVP award.

LeBron James            10/3
Anthony Davis           4/1
Giannis Antetokounmpo   9/2
James Harden            11/2
Kevin Durant            9/1
Kawhi Leonard           11/1
Russell Westbrook       14/1
Stephen Curry           15/1
Joel Embiid             16/1
Kyrie Irving            16/1
Ben Simmons             35/1
Damian Lillard          45/1
Karl-Anthony Towns      50/1
DeMar DeRozan           80/1
John Wall               80/1
Donovan Mitchell        85/1
Jimmy Butler            100/1
Nikola Jokic            100/1
Victor Oladipo          100/1
Chris Paul              100/1
LaMarcus Aldridge       125/1
Paul George             125/1
DeMarcus Cousins        150/1
Gordon Hayward          150/1
Jayson Tatum            175/1
Blake Griffin           225/1
Devin Booker            275/1
Kristaps Porzingis      275/1
Kyle Lowry              325/1
Lonzo Ball              450/1

A few quick thoughts:

• If you’re betting on Porzingis to win the MVP this season, just donate that money to charity where it can do some good. He may not even play this season.

• If you believe Kawhi Leonard is healthy and back to form, 11-1 is a good betting value.

• Westbrook at 14-1 also seems a good value, if you think he and Paul George can lift the Thunder up to a new level.

• My preseason prediction for MVP is Anthony Davis. But that’s betting on him staying healthy.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey says LeBron is GOAT by a “pretty big margin”

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had it right — the GOAT argument is a comparison of different players with different teammates and different rules, it’s cannot be definitive. To use his Highlander analogy, “there doesn’t need to be only one.”

But if you ask Rockets GM Daryl Morey who is The Greatest, he is going with LeBron James. Something he said on the Dan Patrick Show Wednesday.

LeBron is the best of his generation, maybe the greatest athlete the NBA has ever seen, and he entered the league with a basketball IQ off the chart (remember when short-sighted people used to rip him for passing to the open player with the game on the line rather than taking the contested shots?).

Is he the GOAT? Fun discussion while sitting on a barstool with a Steady Brewing Unrefined hazy IPA in front of you, go at it in the comments, but there is no answer.

Unless you’re Morey.