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Report: Cavaliers would’ve traded Kevin Love for Paul George if LeBron James committed long-term last summer

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While exploring Kyrie Irving trades last summer, the Cavaliers tried to get LeBron James to commit to them beyond last season. LeBron refused. We don’t know what Cleveland would have done with Irving – whom LeBron wanted to keep – if LeBron pledged to stay. But we know what they got: a package from the Celtics that devolved into meager return for the star.

The Cavs also apparently sought a commitment from LeBron earlier that summer, when they were discussing a three-way trade with the Pacers and Nuggets that would have sent Paul George to Cleveland and Kevin Love to Denver. That deal fell apart over the Cavaliers insisting on protecting a pick that would have gone to Indiana.

Adrian Wojnarowski, Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

James’ unwillingness to commit beyond the 2017-18 season made it challenging for Cavs management to execute a trade for George last summer, because George wanted a James commitment beyond next season to make one of his own, league sources said. One George-to-Cleveland deal fell apart when the Cavs declined to make a future first-round pick unprotected, a concession they felt they couldn’t make without assurances from James.

It is unlikely that the Cavaliers would’ve traded Kyrie Irving with James and George together on the Cleveland roster.

Even as a rental, George would have provided the Cavs with value. They were trying to win a championship last season, and he would have helped. Maybe they should have traded for him without a pledge to re-sign. There was always a chance of winning him and LeBron over. But it’s at least understandable the Cavaliers offered less for George without that pledge.

It’s also understandable George wanted assurances from LeBron before promising to stay in Cleveland long-term. That’s not a destination George would choose without the superstar.

And it’s understandable LeBron wasn’t ready to do that. Flexibility is important to him, and he has earned the ability to sign short-term contracts and repeatedly test the market.

But by wanting to keep his options open, LeBron reduced his chances of winning the 2018 title. LeBron, George and Irving would have formed a heck of a team – one with at least a better chance of beating the Warriors, even if Golden State would still be favored.

Perhaps, LeBron will build a super team in Los Angeles – maybe even with George (and Kawhi Leonard). But LeBron’s unwillingness to commit to the Cavaliers last summer leaves a big “what if?” over last season and beyond.

With long endorsement list, LeBron James remains highest earning NBA player

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LeBron James came to Los Angeles not just to chase another title and some legacy with the Lakers, but to position himself off-the-court now and for when he retires. It was a business move, not just a basketball one.

Business is good.

Counting salary and endorsements, LeBron will make $92.4 million this season, making him the highest-earning NBA player, according to Forbes Magazine. This is the sixth straight season LeBron has topped that list.

Here are the top 10 from Forbes:

  1. LeBron James, $94.2 million ($37.4 million salary, $55 million endorsements)
  2. Stephen Curry, $85.2 million ($40.2 million salary, $45 million endorsements)
  3. Kevin Durant, $73.2 million ($38.2 million salary, $35 million endorsements)
  4. Russell Westbrook, $56.5 million ($38.5 million salary, $18 million endorsements)
  5. James Harden, $55.2 million ($38.2 million salary, $17 million endorsements)
  6. Kyrie Irving, $51.7 million ($31.7 million salary, $20 million endorsements)
  7. Klay Thompson, $47.7 million ($32.7 million salary, $15 million endorsements)
  8. Chris Paul, $46.5 million ($38.5 million salary, $8 million endorsements)
  9. Giannis Antetokounmpo, $45.8 million ($25.8 million salary, $20 million endorsements)
  10. Damian Lillard, $43.8 million ($29.8 million salary, $14 million endorsements)

No real surprises on that list, just expect Antetokounmpo to climb it fast as more endorsements roll in and he gets a bump to a new supermax salary in a couple of years. With LeBron and Durant both having production companies, they may be up at the top for years.

Will LeBron’s stumbles with China impact his bottom line much? That’s an unknown and something interesting to watch, but it’s not slowing him down yet.

Also, don’t be shocked if Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Anthony Davis start to appear on this list after their moves to Los Angeles. While being in a big market doesn’t help as much as endorsements as it used to, being in that market on elite teams is going to add to the exposure, and that’s what companies will be drawn to.

Giannis Antetokounmpo: If Bucks underperform whether to re-sign ‘becomes a lot more difficult’

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Around the league, the consensus among team executives is Giannis Antetokounmpo is almost a lock to sign a super-max contract extension with the Milwaukee Bucks next summer.

Almost.

Which is why other teams are keeping an eye on the situation, just in case.

The Bucks are a contending team and the only home Antetokounmpo has known in the United States — the only place he has ever been able to live comfortably and happily with his family — but he keeps leaving the door just a little open. He did that at the end of last season. He did it again over the summer speaking a Harvard University professor who was researching the Bucks turnaround and the challenges of a small market team in the NBA. Via the Journal Sentinel.

“I want the Bucks to build a winning culture,” Antetokounmpo is quoted as saying. “So far, we have been doing great, and, if this lasts, there’s no other place I want to be. But if we’re underperforming in the NBA next year, deciding whether to sign becomes a lot more difficult.”

Define “underperforming.” Do the Bucks need to make the NBA Finals? What if they lose in a close seven-game Eastern Conference Finals to Philadelphia? Anything short of the conference finals — barring a major injury, of course — would be a disappointment. Is this Antetokounmpo just keeping pressure on the organization to spend and put together a winner?

Leaving Milwaukee would mean leaving a lot of money on the table — only the Bucks can re-sign Antetokounmpo to a five-year, $247 million supermax contract next summer. Bucks GM Jon Horst said Milwaukee will offer it (then got fined for saying they would offer it, even though it’s obvious). If Antetokounmpo doesn’t sign it, the Bucks will be forced to consider trading him (or lose him for nothing), or find a way to win him over before his contract ends in 2021.

Because of money, comfort level, and playing for a contender, most teams don’t think Antetokounmpo is going anywhere as a free agent next summer.

But they are watching. Just in case.

Jamal Crawford makes not-so-subtle pitch on Twitter for spot on Lakers roster

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The Lakers have made LeBron James their point guard this season, the shot creator with the ball in his hands.

That worked with limited success in a season-opening loss to the Clippers. LeBron tried to force-feed the ball to Anthony Davis much of the night (leading to five turnovers). The Clippers adjusted to defend LeBron/Davis actions as the game wore on — switching but having the big man stay back and daring LeBron to shoot or blow past the defender, neither of which he did well. When Dwight Howard or JaVale McGee was on the floor, the Lakers had no spacing, so the Clippers clogged the paint. In the end, LeBron and Davis combined to shoot 15-of-40 on the night, including 1-of-6 in the fourth quarter.

Laker coach Frank Vogel was stuck because he didn’t have another good playmaking option (his next best guys for that, Rajon Rondo and Kyle Kuzma, are both out injured).

Free agent Jamal Crawford has an idea and voiced it on Twitter.

Crawford is one of the best veteran free agents available

And no, this is not going to happen.

The Lakers have 14 guaranteed contracts already and the one non-guaranteed they are carrying is Howard (teams can only carry 15 players). If the Lakers waived Howard they would need to replace him with another center. The Lakers could eat the contract of Troy Daniels or Jared Dudley to create a roster spot for a free agent, but they are nowhere near making that kind of move yet. Even if they were, Crawford might not be the guy, he creates shots more for himself than others.

Crawford could help the right team, the man can still get buckets off the bench. He averaged 7.9 points per game last season and lit it up for the depleted Suns at the end of last year. There are downsides — Crawford is 39, has slowed in recent years, and his defense is not good — but in the right role he can help.

Just not the Lakers.

Good try, though.

Draymond Green opens up about, takes blame for last season’s rift with Kevin Durant

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At the time last November, some wondered if Draymond Green‘s on-court, over-the-top argument with Kevin Durant — which extended into the locker room, where Green reportedly called Durant a “b****” and questioned his commitment to the Warriors because of KD’s pending free agency — would doom the Warriors down the line in the playoffs.

Green was more worried about what it would do to his friendship with Durant.

That’s what Green said on The Woj Pod with Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, a  joint interview with Green and Warriors GM Bob Myers. Green also said the team suspending him for a game ultimately forced him to step back and think about the incident.

“I started to tell myself in my mind, ‘Wow, [Myers is] flipping on me,’ and it just felt like, ‘Wow, OK, is this not the guy I’ve known for all these years? Is he turning on me?’ And I started to tell myself all of these things, and then everybody’s like, ‘Oh my God, the Warriors sided with Kevin Durant.’…

“I just had to accept the fact that I was wrong. And once I was able to get over my stubbornness and accept the fact that I was wrong, I was able to move on. I lost [Durant’s] trust. How do I get that back? Not so we can win a championship or we can win some games … but I actually loved this guy, like that’s really my brother. And so not knowing what’s next in our relationship bothered me more.”

Green said he eventually apologized to Durant and he thought the relationship was repaired. However, Green added that Durant’s comments to the Wall Street Journal this summer that he never felt he fit in with the guys in Golden State really bothered him.

The Green and Durant incident ultimately did not cost the Warriors a title, worn-down ligaments and tendons that snapped did that (as well as an outstanding Raptors team).

Did what Green said push Durant out the door, ultimately to Brooklyn? Only Durant knows the answer to that, but it felt like KD was eyeing the door before Green got in his face.

As for their relationship, if Shaq and Kobe can get along now there’s no reason to worry about Durant and Green.