This Wednesday, LeBron James makes his return to Cleveland.
This time it should feel different from eight years ago, when LeBron returned in a Miami Heat uniform and Cleveland unleashed all its pent-up fury upon him. Not that Cavaliers fans wanted him to leave last summer, but this time they saw it coming and could look back upon a title in the city for the first time since 1954. LeBron cemented his legacy in Cleveland.
LeBron reflected upon those days and said he knew the end was coming the same time everyone else did — when Kyrie Irving demanded a trade (he was eventually shipped to Boston). Via Joe Varden of The Athletic.
“Everyone knows that when Kyrie got traded, it was the beginning of the end for everything. It’s not a secret.”
For my money, the real beginning of the end was when owner Dan Gilbert refused to pay up and retain a quality general manager in David Griffin. LeBron realized that when it all started to go down, too. The new GM Koby Altman told LeBron he would not trade Irving to Boston — turning them into an instant powerhouse — but then the trade was completed later that day. LeBron realized it’s not that Altman lied to him as much as Altman wasn’t the guy making the call.
“You realize at that point in time, take nothing from Koby, because Koby [was just named GM], but at that point in time, you realize that Koby’s not the only one running the team, as [Griffin] had done, and that’s why Griff was let go pretty much.”
LeBron still carried the Cavaliers to the Finals (in part because Irving was injured and out when the teams met in the postseason) but the Cavaliers were no match for the league’s elite, which is why they got swept by the Warriors. LeBron decided he needed to move on to new challenges and headed West to the Lakers, where the work to build a contender is still ongoing.
His return to Cleveland will bring mixed emotions to Cavaliers fans on Wednesday. And if LeBron plays like he has lately — dropping 44 on Portland and 51 on Miami — they will be reminded just how great a player he was for them.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said Kristaps Porzingis will sign long-term with Dallas this summer, and Porzingis he was on the same page.
But he will be a free agent. Restricted, but a free agent, nonetheless.
Porzingis’ exit from the Knicks provided a clue about where he’d want to go if he explores leaving the Mavericks.
Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:
The four teams Porzingis had on his wish list of trade destinations were the Nets, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors, according to two people with knowledge of the list who were not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Porzingis had little leverage to get to any of these teams. Because he’ll be a restricted free agent, the Knicks or any team acquiring him would retain immense team control over him.
The Nets and Clippers project to have cap space this summer. The Heat and Raptors don’t.
But even if Porzingis signs an offer sheet elsewhere, Dallas will will likely match it.
Still, Porzingis will become an unrestricted free agent someday – 2020 in the unlikely event he accepts his qualifying offer or a future year if he signs a multi-year deal this summer. It’s probably best to file away this list until then.
The Knicks opened double-max cap space for next summer. Kevin Durant‘s company is moving to a new office in New York. Kyrie Irving backed away from his commitment to re-sign with the Celtics.
Plenty of people were already connecting dots when this video emerged of Durant and Irving talking at the All-Star game (in which, not for nothing, they jelled).
Ben Stinar of Amico Hoops:
Irving, via MassLive (warning: language in the above video):
It’s a video of me and one of my best friends talking. And then it turns out to be a dissection of a free agency meeting? Do you get that? Like, do you get that? And then I’m asked questions about it? That’s what disconnects me from all that s—.
That wasn’t a denial.
Still, it’s hard to believe Durant and Irving really discussed free agency in a hallway with so many people passing. There are far more discreet places to have that conversation.
Like a restaurant in Miami where they were spotted together:
I understand Irving’s exasperation with this, just as I understood Durant’s testiness over constant speculation. They should be allowed to spend time together as friends without it turning into a bigger deal.
But there is immense interest in where they play next year. People will continue to search for clues – some that prove insignificant, some that might prove significant – about the stars’ futures.
So, I’m at least glad Irving addressed this. It’s going to get discussed either way. Better for him to enter his perspective into the conversation.
There were two memorable dunks in this year’s dunk contest:
The Hawks nearly stopped us from seeing that latter spectacle.
Brian Windhorst of ESPN on Saturday:
Now, there’s a little curve ball here. The last update that I had was that the Hawks hadn’t approved John Collins jumping over an airplane yet and that they were a little bit were worried that he was going to trip on it and injure himself.
After watching the dunk, I understand the Hawks’ reluctance. Collins broke the plane!
At least he seemingly emerged unscathed.
The NBA reportedly threatened to fine the Pelicans if they sat a healthy Anthony Davis.
Then, Davis got booed by New Orleans fans. He got injured in another game. The Pelicans fired Dell Demps as general manager and elevated Danny Ferry to interim general manager.
New Orleans is reportedly uncertain how to handle Davis the rest of the season. But a key step to changing course is gaining NBA approval, and that’s apparently what Ferry is seeking.
Marc Stein of The New York Times:
There were strong signals in Charlotte that the Pelicans — with Danny Ferry now serving as their acting general manager in the wake of Friday’s firing of Dell Demps — intend to re-engage the N.B.A. this week in hopes of convincing league officials to rethink their stance about forcing them to play Davis.
A big question: What does Davis want? He failed to give a straight answer about about his long-term future, but maybe he can explain his desire for just the rest of this season. He previously said he wanted to play, but that was before he got booed and hurt – developments that could change his thinking.
If Davis wants to keep playing, the players’ union could take up his cause. That might not be a fight the league wants.
Heck, the league might still want Davis to keep playing, regardless. The injury risk was real when the league handed down its initial edict. Unemotionally, Davis’ shoulder scare shouldn’t change the calculus. Davis is in the midst of a great season. Him being a healthy scratch for a month-and-a-half would be a black mark for the NBA.
But NBA commissioner has had Ferry’s back before, even reportedly urging the Bucks to consider him for general manager after Ferry made a racist remark that ended his Hawks tenure. Maybe Ferry will convince the league in a way Demps couldn’t.
If so, attention to will turn to Davis and his desire to keep playing.