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.

Watch Kawhi Leonard dunk all over Giannis Antetokounmpo

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Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors took Game 4 against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday, 120-102.

Things started off okay for Milwaukee but started to peter off as the hometown Toronto crowd got behind their Raptors. The bench continued to show up for Leonard’s squad, and it was Kyle Lowry dueling it out with Antetokounmpo in the first quarter.

Leonard scored 19 points to go with seven rebounds and four steals, and perhaps his most impressive play of the night came early in the third quarter. Running a little two-man game with Marc Gasol, Leonard cut to the basket and wound up dunking all over the Milwaukee star.

Via Twitter:

Leonard appeared to hobble a little bit after his dunk, but he should be ready to go for Game 5 on a Thursday night. Meanwhile, the series heads back to Wisconsin all tied up at 2-2.

The victor of this series will get to take on the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals.

Andre Iguodala says Stephen Curry is the second-best PG ever

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The Golden State Warriors are moving on to the NBA Finals yet again, thanks in large part to the efforts of Stephen Curry. Golden State’s point guard is now heading to his fifth-straight finals, and without Kevin Durant he was a big reason why the Warriors were able to beat the Portland Trail Blazers in just four games.

Of course there is a real worry that Durant won’t be able to play in the NBA Finals, either partially or fully, thanks to a calf injury. If that’s the case, and the Warriors can take home another championship trophy, it could mean great things for Curry’s legacy.

Curry is currently chasing Magic Johnson as the best point guard ever in the eyes of many folks. What might help solidify Curry’s place in history would be an NBA Finals MVP, which he would likely wind up with if Durant is unable to impact the Finals the way he has.

At least for Andre Iguodala, Curry is already the second best point guard of all-time.

Via The Athletic:

“I think he’s the second best ever,” Iguodala said. “I always thought that about him. I knew but other people didn’t know. So I wasn’t surprised when he took over that series. But I always gave Tony Allen credit. Playing against him made you understand the grind of how hard it is to win. It’s supposed to be hard. You’re supposed to have to find another way. It’s supposed to be uncomfortable. He just embraced that. Just ingrained that into his system and it’s been there ever since.”

The real question is what Curry’s legacy will be after these Finals, particularly if they win without Durant. Some people aren’t keen to compare eras, and might never move off of Johnson for that spot. It seems reasonable to say that Curry is already the best shooter of all-time, but June could elevate him even further.

Raptors’ halfcourt defense, big games from Gasol, Lowry evens series with Bucks

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Slow your roll on “these Bucks can challenge Warriors” takes…

They are going to have to get out of the East, first. And that is proving to be more difficult than it looked after two games.

Back home in Toronto, the Raptors slowed the game’s pace down and used an impressive halfcourt defense — the Bucks scored less than a point per possession — to control this game. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 25 points and 10 rebounds, while Khris Middleton had 30 points, but outside those two the Bucks shot 35.4 percent and had just 13 fast break points. It all kept the Bucks offense relatively in check.

Relatively is good enough when everyone is hitting their shots.

Kawhi Leonard had a quiet 19 points, although he did have the dunk of the playoffs all over Antetokounmpo.

Leonard didn’t have to carry the team because everyone in white seemed to be knocking down their shots. Kyle Lowry had 25 points on 11 shots, Marc Gasol had 17 (and his aggressive offense the last two games has stressed the Bucks defense), Nick Powell had 18, Serge Ibaka 17 points and 13 rebounds, and Fred VanVleet had 13 points on six shots. The Raptors bench scored 48 points.

All that led to a 120-102 Raptors win that wasn’t even that close.

The series is now tied 2-2 and heads back to Milwaukee where the best-of-three left starts.

The Raptors continue to defend well in the halfcourt, with the Bucks coring less than a point per possession (0.93) this game. In three of the four games, the Bucks have scored less than a point per possession in the halfcourt, but that only really matters if they can keep Milwaukee out of transition. The Raptors did that at home.

Milwaukee and Mike Budenholzer have leaned on Nikola Mirotic more in recent games, and the Raptors are now attacking him when they have the ball.

Combine that with an aggressive Gasol — he has started taking the shots from three that he hesitated on in the first two games — and his 3-of-6 from deep has become a big problem for Toronto.

Toronto had this in hand much of the second half, so much so that Drake was helping Nick Nurse relax on the sidelines.

The Bucks will also need their other players — Eric Bledsoe, who had 5 points on 7 shots, and Brook Lopez, who had 8 points — to step up in the final games.

The Raptors have found a formula that works, it’s on the Bucks now to adjust.

Kyle Korver says the copier Nets bought with cash from his trade is broken

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Kyle Korver was taken by the New Jersey Nets with the 51st pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. He was traded on draft day by the Nets to the Philadelphia 76ers for cash considerations. The Nets famously — or infamously — used the cash from that trade to purchase an office copier.

More than a decade and a half later, Korver is still playing in the NBA at age 38. And now, thanks to Korver giving the commencement speech at his alma mater Creighton, we have an update on the status of that copier.

Via Twitter:

Kyle Korver does not have a depreciation expense method. He is timeless.