Can they bridge the gap by Oct. 1, when Thompson’s qualifying offer expires?
LeBron James – who shares an agent, Rich Paul, with Thompson – reportedly won’t wield his vast influence to make it happen.
a source close to James said Thompson’s contract is a “non-discussion right now” for James as it relates to his own future, and a team source said the Cavs believe “LeBron’s goals don’t change relative to Tristan Thompson or anyone. Be as good as we can be for as long as we can be.”
This jibes with a previous report that the Cavaliers believe LeBron won’t leave over their handling of Thompson.
But I’d provide the same caution to the Cavs I did then: Just because you think LeBron won’t resent the franchise for losing Thompson – which Paul said would happen if Thompson takes the qualifying offer – doesn’t mean LeBron is bound by that. Though LeBron has softened his public statements since, he said Thompson should spend the rest of his career with Cleveland. LeBron, especially if his past is an indication, can be passive aggressive about this.
This doesn’t even have to be about sharing an agent with Thompson, either.
If the Cavaliers truly want to be as good as they can for as long as they can, they’d give Thompson a max contract. There’s no harm in negotiating to the deadline, hoping Thompson will accept less. But when it comes to it, there’s little team-building reason to justify not maxing out Thompson. The Cavaliers are unlikely to have cap space anytime soon, even if they let Thompson walk. So, they should keep him. He’s a pretty good player – far better than they could get with the taxpayer mid-level exception.
The best argument for haggling with Thompson is the real-dollar costs, both in salary and luxury-tax payments, to Cavs owner Dan Gilbert. It would be completely fair for Gilbert to impose a spending limit.
But Heat owner Micky Arison did the same, and that contributed to LeBron’s dissatisfaction in Miami.
Of course, Gilbert is spending far more than Arison did. Enough more to please LeBron?
Does Cleveland want to find out?