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GM: LeBron James saying Cavaliers might be satisfied ‘most misguided comment that came out of any of this’

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CLEVELAND — LeBron James called the Cleveland Cavaliers’ roster “top heavy” and questioned whether the organization was fully committed to winning a second title.

James met with his teammates, coach Tyronn Lue and general manager David Griffin earlier Wednesday to discuss the remarks he made following a loss on Monday at New Orleans. Griffin was most upset with the superstar’s assertion that the Cavs appeared satisfied.

“It was the most misguided comment that came out of any of this,” Griffin said. “It was the thing I think that was not wrought out of his frustration.”

Drama is nothing new to the Cavs, who have resembled a soap opera at times. Griffin said the team seems to operate best under duress. “It’s hard for me to tell you we’re dealing with a lot of adversity when we’re No. 1 in the East,” he said. “But we have a tendency to be our best when our backs are against the wall, so I have no reason to believe that won’t be true now.”

Cleveland certainly wasn’t its best against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday.

Arron Afflalo dropped a 3-pointer with 17.3 seconds left in overtime, lifting Sacramento to a 116-112 win Wednesday night over the slumping Cavaliers, who lost for the sixth time in eight games amid criticism by James.

DeMarcus Cousins had 28 points and 10 rebounds for the Kings, who trailed by five in overtime before battling back. Darren Collison added 23 points for Sacramento.

After Afflalo’s 3, James missed a deep 3-point attempt for the Cavs, who were then forced to foul Cousins. Sacramento’s big man dropped one of two to put away the reeling NBA champions.

James finished with 24 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, and Kevin Love had 21 points and 16 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough as the Cavs didn’t play with poise down the stretch.

Cleveland went 17 of 34 from the free-throw line.

There will be more dissect after the Cavs lost to a Sacramento team that had lost eight of 10 coming in and is on an eight-game road trip.

Cleveland was in control and seemed on its way to a win, leading 97-87 midway through the fourth. But the Kings kept chipping away, and thanks to Cleveland’s struggles at the line, Sacramento was able to force overtime.

Irving could have given the Cavs a three-point lead with 12.4 seconds left, but the All-Star guard missed the second of two free throws. The Kings then tied it when Cousins bulled his way for a layup with 3.4 seconds left.

TIP-INS

Kings: Sacramento’s grueling road trip includes three back-to-backs, putting a heavy physical strain on the players. Coach Dave Joerger said it’s a challenge to keep the Kings fresh. “We try to break it up a little bit, try to do something different at practice,” he said. “Keep guys loose, keep guys fresh, not wear them out. It comes around and goes around. Sometimes you are the beneficiary. We all think we’re getting the wrong end of it, but it does come around. We’re OK.” … F Omri Casspi missed his sixth straight game with a strained tendon in his right foot. Joerger doesn’t know how long Casspi will be out.

Cavaliers: F Richard Jefferson was excused to handle a personal matter. The team did not say when he’ll return. …

UP NEXT

Kings: Continue their eight-game road trip Friday at Indiana.

Cavaliers: Host Brooklyn on Friday before welcoming Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday.

Kings’ De’Aaron Fox: ‘I don’t crave to be in a big market’

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De'Aaron Fox was the breakout star of the Kings’ breakthrough season. The future looks bright in Sacramento.

But we’ve seen this story play out so many times. A young player excels in a small market then eventually moves to a more desirable destination. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George.

Will Fox be different?

Fox, via Corban Goble of ONE37pm:

“I don’t crave to be in a big market,” he says. “After last season, there was a buzz in Sacramento. Everyone in Sacramento is a Kings fan. If we start making the playoffs, or if we become a championship contender, the entire city is going to go nuts. That’s the difference between a big market and a small one.”

I’m glad Fox is happy in Sacramento. He had minimal say in getting there. The Kings picked him in a draft that gives teams massive control over top young prospects. That he landed somewhere he likes so much was largely coincidental. He could’ve easily wound up with Boston, Phoenix, Orlando, Minnesota or any other team picking in that range.

Some of this is Fox’s attitude. I suspect he would’ve found joy nearly anywhere. Now, he’s with the Kings and feeling positively about them.

They’ll have to continue to keep him happy as he approaches free agency. Unrestricted free agency is still several years away. A lot can change between now and then.

But Sacramento ought to feel good about Fox’s outlook now.

Damian Lillard on leaving Trail Blazers for super team: ‘We would win it, but what is the challenge or the fun in that?’

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Kevin Durant left for the Warriors for many reasons. LeBron James left for the Heat for many reasons. Anthony Davis and Paul George forced their way to Los Angeles for many reasons.

Those are life-altering moves. Nobody does something so consequential for a single purpose.

But whether or not it intended, each of those stars took an easier route to a championship. That’s just the reality.

Damian Lillard, on the other hand, has done so much to elevate himself then pull up the Trail Blazers with him. Lillard has often touted his loyalty to Portland. He showed it by signing a super-max extension that locks him in through 2025.

Lillard, via Adam Caparell of Complex:

“To leave, what did I invest all this time for just to leave, you know?” he says. “If I go play with three other stars, I don’t think that many people would doubt that I could win it. We would win it, but what is the challenge or the fun in that?”

I disagree with Lillard’s certainty about winning a title if he teamed with other stars. Not every perceived super team has won. A championship still must be earned. It’s not easy.

But it would be easier.

It also probably wouldn’t be as rewarding.

Durant has admitted winning a championship with Golden State didn’t fill the void he thought it would. Maybe for other reasons, but it’s easy to see the Warriors’ talent advantage as a reason. He joined a title contender and made it even better. He didn’t build that team. Perhaps, a championship with the Nets would mean more to him.

Lillard is less likely to win a title by staying Portland. I think he knows that. He enjoys the city, and the $196 million he projects to earn on his four-year extension doesn’t hurt, either.

But if Lillard ever wins a championship with the Trail Blazers, it would be so gratifying. That’s what he’s chasing.

Lillard made clear he’s not criticizing stars who chose an alternate path. He’s doing what’s right for him, just as they did what was right for them.

His quest should earn him plenty of fans. For everyone who disliked Durant joining Golden State because it offended their sensibilities of how a title pursuit should work, Lillard is a great foil.

Andre Iguodala recalls Draymond Green doubling Kevin Durant in practice: ‘he was mad … We was tryna win’

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Devin Booker complained to his opponents for double-teaming him during a pick-up game.

That has sparked a Great National Debate: Is it right or wrong to double-team during pick-up games?

Kevin Durant:

That’s a reasonable conclusion. The primary defender is missing an opportunity to work on his defense by getting help. But I also think it fails to address the main point. Booker wasn’t complaining to help the defender. Booker wanted the ideal training environment for himself, the offensive player.

How should the offensive player feel about it?

It’s a reasonably interesting question that’s getting taken far too seriously because the NBA is in a dead period. But to give it more juice, let’s add the Kevin Durant-Draymond Green relationship to the equation.

Andre Iguodala:

Durant:

It seems Durant can laugh it off now, but this story feeds into what so many people think they know about these players – that Green is a relentless competitor (accurate) and that Durant is soft (inaccurate).

NBA players spend so much time playing basketball. Sometimes, it’s helpful to face game-like conditions, where double-teams can happen at any point. Other times, it’s helpful to have more-relaxed conditions.

I don’t know enough about Booker’s pick-up game or the Warriors’ practice to say what was appropriate in each.

Report: Executives expect Thunder to say they are not trading Chris Paul (but they are)

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It’s all about leverage.

Right now the vultures are circling the Oklahoma City Thunder, hoping to get a free meal. Everyone knows the Thunder are moving into a rebuilding mode and want to trade Chris Paul for picks/young players, so other general managers — the vultures — are throwing out lowball offers hoping to get a steal of a trade. And by steal we mean making the Thunder throw in a first-round pick as a sweetener to get CP3 and the three-years, $124 million left on his contract off their books.

Oklahoma City’s response? Say “we’re not trying to trade him” and be patient. Here is how Brian Windhorst phrased it on ESPN’s The Jump (hat tip Real GM):

“Here’s what executives expect to happen: they expect the Thunder to put out a message that we’re not looking to trade Chris Paul…We want him to work with our young guys. Because they don’t want anybody to think they’re panic-trying to trade him, and they want to hope that somebody has something happen where they need Chris Paul,” said Windhorst.

Royce Young, who covers the Thunder for ESPN, added that he believed the Thunder would hold on to Chris Paul rather than surrender a draft pick.

This is the smart play. CP3 is still a top-flight point guard in the NBA, even if he has taken half a step back, and there are at least eight NBA teams going into this season thinking they have a shot at a title, and a few more looking at deep playoff runs. Some team is either going to realize they are not as good as they thought they were, or are going to suffer an injury, and be looking for an All-Star level player and replacement. Enter the Thunder and Chris Paul.

What this ultimately means is expect this to drag out. Not just through the summer and through training camp, but maybe all the way to the trade deadline.