Report: Cavaliers and Tristan Thompson still far apart in contract talks

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One way or another, Tristan Thompson is going to end up in Cleveland next season. After a strong postseason in which he started at power forward for much of the Cavs’ Finals run in place of the injured Kevin Love, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the sides would work out a long-term deal. That goes double when you factor in Thompson sharing an agent with LeBron James. Paying Thompson more than market value just seemed like the cost of doing business when the greatest player in the world decided to come home.

Apparently, it’s not that simple. We’re six weeks into free agency and Thompson doesn’t have a deal, and it doesn’t seem like that will change anytime soon.

From ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst:

There is no clear precedent for his position, which has led to a stalemate between Thompson and the Cleveland Cavaliers. It has been difficult to negotiate a middle ground, setting the stage for possible tension as training camp approaches.

Thompson, an excellent offensive rebounder and pick-and-roll player who proved valuable in the Cavs’ run to the Finals, is believed to be looking for a maximum-level contract of around $94 million over five years. The Cavs’ offers have been for significantly less.

There has been no real progress since the second week of July when talks reached an impasse and both sides dug in.

It’s tough to gauge Thompson’s value. With the salary cap rising next season, a $94 million deal won’t seem like much of an overpay going forward. But barring an injury, Thompson is not going to be a starter for the Cavs. Kevin Love re-upped on a long-term deal, and Timofey Mozgov will probably do the same next summer. Thompson doesn’t have very many options as a restricted free agent. The only teams with cap space to sign him to a max-level deal are Portland and Philadelphia, and there’s not much point in either of those teams giving him an offer sheet the Cavs will happily match.

If Thompson wants to gamble, he could sign the one-year qualifying offer for $6.8 million, as Greg Monroe did with the Pistons last summer. That would make him an unrestricted free agent next summer, when nearly every team will have cap space and he’ll be able to get an even larger max offer from somebody. It’s a huge risk — Thompson could get injured or have a down year and hurt his value. By continuing to hold their ground in these talks, the Cavs are essentially daring him to take that risk. He has no other leverage.

Another Rich Paul client, Eric Bledsoe, went through this same saga last summer. The Suns let him dangle in restricted free agency, with no other teams stepping up to make offers they knew would get matched. As it got closer to training camp, things started to get ugly and it seemed like there was a real chance he would sign the one-year qualifying offer. But one week before the start of training camp, Bledsoe and the Suns finally agreed to a five-year, $70 million deal to keep him in Phoenix. It was below the max, but still a fair deal. In both cases, there were mitigating circumstances that prevented them from being clear-cut max players. Bledsoe had an extensive injury history; Thompson probably won’t be a starter.

The rising cap works in Thompson’s favor, though. His case to the Cavs is this: max me out now under the current cap, or pay a lot more than that next summer to keep me. Eventually, they’re going to have to bite the bullet and do it, or else lose one of their most important frontcourt players a year from now.

Paul George says he knew James Harden/Russell Westbrook pairing would work

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When James Harden and Russell Westbrook share the court this season, the Rockets are +8.9 points per 100 possessions. That is fueled by a surprisingly good defensive rating that has them giving almost exactly a point per possession.

All of that is much better than many pundits predicted, as they questioned how to isolation players with questionable defensive chops would fit together.

Not Paul George. He thought this would work from the start, as he told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“I knew it was going to work,” George said at the morning shootaround before the Clippers face the Rockets on Friday night. “Russ is a winner. Russ wants to win, Russ does whatever it takes to win. My time playing with him, Russ doesn’t really have an ego. He puts his ego to the side.

“He allowed me to be myself, he allowed me to be comfortable. And I had one of the best career [years] I had while playing alongside him. Russ is a heckuva teammate.”

James Harden — averaging 38.4 points, 7.5 assists, and 5.8 rebounds a game — would likely agree with George.

George, however, surveyed the situation with Westbrook and OKC — after Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers knocked them out in the first round — and decided to move on and team up with Kawhi Leonard with the Lakers. He may have liked Westbrook as a teammate, but the two of them (with that talent around them and few ways to make real upgrades) had limits on how far they could go.

That remains the question about these Rockets, one that is not going to be answered until next April at the earliest.

Report: Hornets interested in Pistons center Andre Drummond

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Andre Drummond is thriving.

The Pistons are not.

With Drummond headed toward free agency, that leaves major questions for Detroit. Should the 4-10 Pistons hope better health – especially for Blake Griffin – allows them to get back on track this season? Should they keep Drummond and attempt to re-sign him as a key player future seasons? Should they trade him to get value now?

Drummond’s market – both for a trade or in free agency – is somewhat limited. The NBA is overstocked with capable centers. His game, built mostly on rebounding, trends toward old-school. Drummond is better than most players of his ilk. The question is about cost.

But at least one team outside Detroit is apparently interested – Charlotte.

Sean Deveney of Heavy:

The target, according to league sources: Pistons big man Andre Drummond, a player in whom the Hornets have had an interest for at least a year.

Charlotte projects to have about $27 million in cap space next summer. That might be enough to lure Drummond with a multi-year deal.

But Drummond’s player option for next season he said he plans to decline is worth $28,751,774.

So, it might make sense to trade for Drummond now to secure his Bird Rights. That way, the Hornets could exceed the cap to re-sign him.

They’d also get an upgrade at center over Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo this season. Charlotte (6-9) is in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race. Even with Drummond, I wouldn’t pick the Hornets as likely to make the postseason, but that’s the type of low-level goal they often prioritize.

Charlotte has expiring contracts to facilitate a trade – Biyombo, Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The Hornets would also have to surrender assets that tempt Detroit (draft picks and/or young players).

There’s a path to a satisfactory trade… if the Pistons are open to dealing Drummond.

Harassment charges against Lakers’ DeMarcus Cousins reportedly dropped

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DeMarcus Cousins got married this past summer, but his 7-year-old son didn’t attend the wedding due to a dispute with the boy’s mother and Cousin’s ex-girlfriend, Christy West. That blew up into an ugly situation where Cousins was ultimately charged in Alabama with a third-degree harassing communications misdemeanor, tied to the domestic situation.

Now, those charges have been dismissed, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Cousins remains out for the Lakers after tearing his ACL this past summer, and he is not expected to return. Because of the surprisingly good play of Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee — particularly as mobile defenders who can show out on the perimeter and recover — the Lakers have not missed Cousins’ presence.

I have no specific knowledge of this case or the truth of what happened between Cousins and his ex. As far as I know, there was nothing to this and should have been dismissed.

However, as someone who spent a chunk of years on a police/courts beat as a young reporter, I feel the need to add this: Domestic violence/harassment cases are exceedingly difficult to prosecute. It can be a he said/she said situation, and unfortunately, often the abused women recant their testimony (whether it was true or not). The situations are a complex mix of emotions and fear, ones that make getting justice difficult. Talk to any prosecutor (or long-time police beat officer) about domestic violence cases and they will tell you horrifying stories. It is a situation that, as a nation, we need to address.

High schoolers Bronny James, Zaire Wade have more national TV games than many NBA teams

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The Wizards are entertaining in their own special way.

Washington games have averaged 241 points this season (120 for the Wizards, 121 for their opponents). That’s the highest mark in nearly two decades. The 1990-91 Nuggets scored 120 while allowing 131 points per game.

But Washington rarely gets nationally televised games.

On the other hand, Sierra Canyon School – which features Bronny James (son of LeBron James) and Zaire Wade (son of Dwyane Wade) – will have plenty of nationally televised games. That drew the attention of at least one Wizard.

Isaiah Thomas:

Of course, the Wizards aren’t alone in getting less national exposure than Bronny and Zaire. On the latest, “Off the Dribble,” Jacques Slade gets into all the NBA teams and stars on national television less often than Sierra Canyon. (For more, watch the video above where Slade also gets into Carmelo Anthony’s Blazers debut.)

The good news: Wizards games can still be found on NBC Sports Washington.