Call it their annual mid-season malaise. Try to spin it that they won 18-of-19 at one point (against a soft part of the schedule, but still). Say that they just don’t care about the regular season but will flip the switch when it matters.
Whatever you want to say about the Cleveland Cavaliers, they have not looked like a contender this season. Yes, they are 26-15 overall, but just 3-7 in their last 10. They have the second-worst defense in the NBA (the worst over the past 10 games) and that came to a head Thursday night when they looked disinterested in a blowout loss to the Raptors.
LeBron James tried to exhort teammates on the sideline during the game, and afterward told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports the Cavaliers’ players need to look in the mirror.
“We all have to be held accountable,” James said later at his locker. “How hard we play. How much effort we play with. I’m trying to hold everyone accountable.”
“I don’t play with my words,” James said late Thursday. “We can’t play around on the court.”
The Cavaliers have been building bad habits this season, particularly defensively, and after the game coach Tyronn Lue said the team needed to be playing without personal agendas. He wouldn’t elaborate, but this has not looked like a group putting team first.
The Cavaliers may look vulnerable, but they have LeBron and that makes them the team to beat in the Eastern Conference — he has been to the Finals seven years in a row for a reason. His ability to lift up his game and those around him is unquestioned now. This core group has been to the Finals the last three years (with the notable change of Kyrie Irving going out and Isaiah Thomas coming in) and knows what it takes.
Still, it’s hard to watch the Cavaliers play of the last couple of weeks and think “contender.” They need to do some soul searching and find their better selves sooner rather than later and start to build good habits, because as it looks now the Cavs will get these Raptors in the second round, and Toronto is legit.
The Nets already got draft picks for taking Kenneth Faried‘s ($13,764,045) and Darrell Arthur‘s ($7,464,912) expiring contracts from the tax-avoiding Nuggets.
Now, Brooklyn will get more draft consideration for flipping Arthur for Jared Dudley‘s costlier expiring contract ($9,530,000).
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
What happens if the pick lands between Nos. 31 and 35? That determines exactly how valuable it is, but this still seems like a high price to save just $2,065,088 – especially when it’s probably just about the real money, not the cap room.
The Suns open a little more cap space, but still less than their $4,449,000 room exception. At this point, it appears unlikely they use either.
Owner Rob Sarver will appreciate the reduced payroll, and if general manager Ryan McDonough doesn’t keep the owner happy, the lost draft pick will be the next guy’s problem.
Brooklyn is already over the cap and never counted on Arthur as a player. The only cost of this trade is the real money in the difference between Dudley’s and Arthur’s salaries, and the Nets are willing to pay that for a draft pick. Good for them.
Neither Dudley nor Arthur played much last year. Maybe that’s because Dudley was on a tanking team trying to empower youth and Arthur was buried behind a deep power-forward rotation. But maybe Dudley (33) and Arthur (30) are just washed up and no longer capable of contributing at an NBA level. Getting them in different situations could reveal plenty. They’re both smart players, the type teams want to add.
The Spurs agreed to trade Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to the Raptors for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected first-round pick.
But the deal isn’t official until everyone involved passes their physicals.
All eyes turn to Leonard, who missed 73 games last season with a hip injury. Will he, presumably testing with Green, pass?
Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:
The pair are scheduled to appear in Toronto on Friday for physicals.
I expect Leonard to pass.
The Raptors have complete discretion, and they knew they were trading for a risk – both in terms of Leonard’s impending free agency and health. After DeMar DeRozan’s reaction would Toronto really undo this trade and bring him back?
Concerns about Leonard’s hip seem to be more about his ability to recover from regular usage and long-term soundness. I’m not sure either would show up in a single-day examination.
Leonard was cleared medically months ago, and he was reportedly considering playing in Team USA’s minicamp next week. He seems ready to go – at least to pass a physical by a team that knew of his health issues when trading for him.
But if Toronto sees a red flag that would cause them to cancel the trade, all hell will break loose. So, the stakes are high.
In 2015, DeAndre Jordan agreed to a contract with Mavericks then backed out to re-sign with the Clippers.
This won’t cause the same uproar, but Dallas has been left at the altar once again.
Yogi Ferrell won’t sign his agreed-upon deal.
Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:
Ferrell agreed to an unbelievably stupid contract. He could have accepted his fully guaranteed, one-year qualifying offer for $2,919,204. Instead, he took a lower salary for next season AND agreed to attach a cheap fully unguaranteed second season. If Ferrell plays well, the Mavericks will keep him for a relatively low salary in 2019-20. If he doesn’t, they’ll waive him at no cost.
In other words, Ferrell gave Dallas a discount for next season and all the power for the following season. There was no tradeoff. Ferrell lost in every aspect of the deal.
He and Tejada never should have accepted it in the first place. But backing out now also carries a reputation hit, especially for Tejada.
Though this reflects more poorly on Tejada, Ferrell will take more egg on his face, because he’s a public figure and gave some now-unfortunate comments.
Andy McDonnell of WANE-TV:
What now for Ferrell?
The Mavericks still have his Early Bird Rights and a low cap hold on him. They could pay him a little more without interfering with their other moves.
But Ferrell – an undersized scoring guard – is a marginal player. Dallas might not want to reengage with him after this. The Mavericks signed Jordan this year, but it took years and a special need for them to get over everything.
How about the Kings? They’re certainly not above negotiating with players who already struck deals with another team.
Philadelphia struck out going big game hunting this off-season — LeBron James, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard all ended up elsewhere. The Sixers decided to trade for Wilson Chandler (absorbing him into their cap space) and re-signed J.J. Redick, but they have continued to look for the right trade.
That could involve adding Kyle Korver.
From Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer:
According to a league source, the team has had discussions about trading Jerryd Bayless to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Kyle Korver.
That move would enable the Sixers to bring back a fan favorite who’s one of the league’s top three-point shooters. He would be an upgrade from former Sixer Marco Belinelli, who signed as a free agent with the San Antonio Spurs earlier this month.
This trade is still in the talking phase.
That this was leaked means an agent of one of the teams involved wants to see the deal done and hopes leaking it puts enough pressure on one or both sides to get it done.
For the Sixers it makes sense on the court, they get out of a contract in Bayless they have tried to trade for a year, and they bring in a sharpshooter who can fit within their system and add bench scoring.
For the Cavaliers, they have to be getting a pick or picks of some kind back in this trade (probably a second round or multiple second-round picks, of which the Sixers have several besides their own in the next couple of drafts).
Something to watch as we head into the weekend, to see if this deal can get done.