LeBron James: “Our No. 1 objective right now” is to get Tristan Thompson signed

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Tristan Thompson is a restricted free agent who wants a max contract extension. The Cleveland Cavaliers are offering less than that. Considerably less according to some reports. The two sides are at an impasse and have dug in.

LeBron James just wants to see a deal get done.

LeBron both shares an agent with Thompson and doesn’t care about the tax bill Dan Gilbert would have to pay, he just wants to see his friend and teammate get paid. He didn’t phrase it that way, but he may as well have speaking to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

“Our No. 1 objective right now is to sign Tristan,” James said Thursday at Cedar Point amusement park. “He’s a huge part of our team. Short term and long term he makes our team more dangerous….

“Things need to be worked out from his side and the Cavs, but we need him back,” James said. “I think our front office has done a great job this summer. The next step is to get Tristan done.”

This week Thompson’s agent ratcheted up the rhetoric, saying Thompson would consider playing next season for the $6.8 million qualifying offer but then would be gone for sure in 2017 as a restricted free agent. The two sides have until Halloween to figure out a contract extension or that is what happens.

This is an unprecedented situation because of the coming spike in the salary cap due to the flood of money from the new television deal about to wash over the league (the $70 million salary cap this season is expected to jump up to around $90 million next season). Thompson is a young big man with a skill — he is an excellent offensive rebounder. Last season he averaged 8.5 points and 8.0 rebounds a game, that bounced to 9.6 points and 10.8 rebounds in the postseason, where due to an injury to Kevin Love he was pressed into service.

Look at those numbers and you say Thompson is not a max player, he should take the reported less than $80 million on the table (he wants $94 million over five years). Most years, Thompson would have little leverage and probably takes the deal. There are no teams willing to give him a big offer sheet that would force the Cavaliers to match it, and all that money he would lose would not be something he could get back.

But this isn’t most years. Because the salary cap is going to spike next season, the max salary numbers will also and so Thompson can make his lost money back. What’s more, with an expected two-thirds of the teams in the league going to have max contract money available next summer and only a handful of decent free agents, some guys are going to get max deals that don’t necessarily deserve it. Thompson is one of those — he would get paid next summer.

The concern for the Cavaliers is the luxury tax. After re-signing Kevin Love and LeBron James, plus bringing in Mo Williams and others the Cavs are $4 million over the tax line right now. Look at it this way: If Thompson plays for the qualifying offer the Cavaliers tax bill would be around $13 million (in addition to the team’s salary), but pay him the max and that jumps to $35 million. And that is with J.R. Smith still out there unsigned and adding to the bill.

I expect the two sides to reach a deal before the deadline, maybe before camp. But because Thompson has some leverage it’s not a certainty, and Thompson’s agent can play the long game.

 

Boston offense stumbles, Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic scores 24 in Magic upset win

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BOSTON (AP) — Nikola Vucevic had 24 points and 12 rebounds while the Orlando Magic survived two 3-point attempts by Boston in the closing seconds to beat the Celtics 93-90 on Monday night.

Jonathan Isaac added 18 points and 12 boards for the Magic (2-2).

Kyrie Irving led the Celtics (2-2) with 22 points. Al Horford had 15 and Gordon Hayward 11. Irving and Hayward each missed a 3 in the final seconds. Boston shot 9-of-40 from three on the night and 40.7 percent overall, looking out of sync as they have much of the season (and preseason).

The Celtics, who never led in the game, trailed by at least five points from the midway point of the final quarter until Jaylen Brown nailed a 3-pointer from the left corner, closing it to 89-86 with 71 seconds left.

But Isaac answered with a foul-line jumper on the next possession.

Horford and Irving then had consecutive baskets 32 seconds apart, slicing it to 91-90 with 14.2 seconds to play.

With Boston forced to foul Evan Fournier after Orlando inbounded the ball after a timeout, he stepped to the line and made both free throws with 7.8 seconds left.

Irving then missed his 3 from the right corner, and after Horford grabbed the rebound and fed it out – Hayward’s rimmed out just before the buzzer sounded.

Orlando had pulled ahead by 13 points twice late in the third quarter before Boston closed the period by scoring 10 of the final 12 points to slice it to 75-70 at the break.

 

Watch Stephen Curry get the volleyball set assist from his mom during warmups

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Wherever the Warriors are, home or road, fans are filling the building long before tip-off just to watch Stephen Curry warm up. With good reason, he’s a show even before the ball goes up.

Curry’s mother, Sonya, was courtside for his warmups before the Warriors hosting the Suns. Curry played a little volleyball with her, got a good set, and hit the corner three.

Pretty sure rules prohibit him from doing that during the game, but it’s impressive nonetheless.

Warriors say DeMarcus Cousins making “good progress,” will participate in part of practice soon

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Don’t confuse this with “DeMarcus Cousins is almost back on the court.” The Warriors are going to be CSPAN call-in show host patient in bringing Cousins back, and a return date is still well down the schedule. There is no official timetable.

Cousins is, however, making progress and will be part of some segments of team practice shortly, the Warriors announced Monday.

“DeMarcus continues to make good progress with his rehabilitation program. After spending the last few weeks doing various individual on-court activities and drills, he will, in the near future, be integrated into controlled aspects of team practices, although not scrimmages at this point. Additionally, he will continue with his off-court strength and conditioning program.”

The Warriors want to keep Cousins happy but also know they don’t fully need him yet — they need him in the playoffs as another option to punish switches. Golden State needs Cousins healthy, back in shape, rust off and ready to go in April, but he doesn’t need to be on the court in October, or even by Christmas, to get there. Cousins wants to play, but as a guy looking to get paid next summer, he needs to come back right and show what he can do, not come back too early and damage his stock. It’s a fine line.

The Warriors and Cousins are moving closer to that line, but there is still a long way to go.

Report: Nuggets’ starter Will Barton out 5-6 weeks with surgery to repair groin muscle

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Non-contact injuries can be the worst.

Against Phoenix over the weekend, Denver’s Will Barton went in for a relatively uncontested reverse layup, but as soon as he lands he grabs his hip and goes to the floor in obvious pain. It did not look good.

There wasn’t much in the way of information from the team.

However, a report from Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated gives us more details.

The adductor muscles are traditionally called the groin muscles. It’s a series of muscles that help the hips move and are connected to the thigh.

That’s bad news for Denver, a team off to a fast 3-0 start including a win over Golden State. Barton has averaged 16.5 points per game and five rebounds a night in 27 minutes per game through the first three, and he’s been hot from three shooting 55.6 percent. Expect the defensive-minded Torrey Craig to get the bulk of the minutes with Barton out, but both Juancho Hernangomez and Trey Lyles could see a little extra run as well.