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Cavaliers explored signing Kevin Durant in 2016

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LeBron James explained the difficulties of recruiting players to the Cavaliers: “A lot of people didn’t wanna come to Cleveland.”

But the Cavs still tried, even for Kevin Durant.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

In late June 2016, just days after winning one of the most thrilling and historically significant NBA Finals in history, David Griffin, then the Cleveland Cavaliers’ GM, gathered his staff and gave them a directive: Explore ways to get Kevin Durant.

Everyone knew even getting a meeting was a long shot. They would have to gut most of their roster around LeBron James to acquire Durant. But they had to at least do their due diligence. By then, there was a creeping fear that Durant might really join the Golden State Warriors — fresh off a 73-win season and Finals heartbreak at the expense of James and the Cavs. Everyone understood what that would do to the league’s competitive landscape.

“I don’t believe you can dream big enough in the NBA,” Griffin says now in recalling that meeting. “You have to go through the exercise.”

The difference between the Cavaliers and Warriors, who got Durant: Cleveland got serious in its Durant exploration days before free agency. Golden State planned its pursuit more than a year in advance and, through Draymond Green, recruited Durant for months (and might have gotten him hooked early).

The Warriors also had the luxury of Stephen Curry being on a relative cheap contract extension he signed while dealing with significant ankle injuries. That allowed Golden State to fairly easily clear enough cap space to sign Durant outright.

The Cavs, on the other hand, were capped out. Even trimming the roster to just LeBron, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love – which would have meant dumping guaranteed salaries for Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, Mo Williams and Sasha Kaun – would have left the Cavaliers with less than max cap room for Durant. Getting Durant would have also required moving Irving or Love, maybe in a sign-and-trade.

That would have required the Thunder to agree, no easy task.

And, of course, Durant would have had to agree. Given Durant’s comments about playing with LeBron since, that was highly unlikely. Durant didn’t meet with Cleveland during free agency, though he did meet with the Warriors, Thunder, Clippers, Spurs, Celtics and Heat.

I appreciate Griffin’s ambition. More teams should explore signing star free agents. Too many teams believe they have no chance and don’t enter the chase.

But there’s a major difference in execution.

The Cavaliers almost certainly weren’t getting Durant, regardless. Their odds sunk even lower when they waited so long to figure out how to do it.

Golden State certainly required good fortune to get Durant – Curry’s cheap extension, the right combination of results the prior postseason, the cap spike coming in a year a star free agent was ready to move. But the Warriors maximized their chances by preparing more than a year before Durant’s free agency.

That’s why, as eyerolling as it is, they can call themselves light years ahead.

Kobe Bryant memorabilia, including game-worn Finals jerseys, going up for auction

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NEW YORK (AP) — Some key Kobe Bryant memorabilia, including two of his Los Angeles Lakers uniforms and cement handprints from his induction into the Grauman’s Chinese Theater hall of fame gallery, are going up for sale in April.

Julien’s Auctions said Thursday that the items would be up for sale on April 30 as part of its annual sports auction that includes a silver medal from the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and a 2002 FIFA World Cup gold winner’s medal.

Bryant’s items were already being planned for auction when he, his daughter Gianna and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26.

“We are honored to include this collection of his items and pay tribute to this giant who was an inspiration not only to basketball fans but to the entire world,” said Darren Julien, Julien’s Auctions’ president and CEO.

The Lakers uniforms up for sale are one worn during the 2000 NBA Finals, with his original number 8. The uniform included a black armband which marked the memory of Wilt Chamberlain, who died that season.

The other uniform was from his 2007 season, when his number was 24.

Other Bryant items include Adidas game shoes signed by the late legend; and a basketball signed by the 2010-11 Lakers including Bryant and other stars such as Ron Artest and Pau Gasol.

Juliens said the Bryant items were being sold by a collector in Kentucky. Fans can view what’s up for sale between April 27 and April 30 in Beverly Hills, California, before the auction takes place at Juliens Auctions Beverly Hills.

Bryant, who was 41, and his daughter were remembered Monday at the Staples Center with a memorial that included a performance from Beyoncé and tributes by Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse to perform musically next month

Raptors coach Nick Nurse
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On his way to guiding the Raptors to a championship, Nick Nurse earned viral fame by arriving in Milwaukee for the Eastern Conference finals with a guitar slung over his back:

Now, Nurse is preparing for a different stage.

Nurse, via CityNews:

I’m working on four songs right now that I’m getting ready to – I’m getting ready to have a little performance. Actually, March 11th, I’m having a kickoff for my foundation – Nick Nurse Foundation – in support of music programs for kids around the Toronto area. So, we have a lot of bands coming in, and I’m going to sit in with, well, at least one of them.

Nurse is doing this while building a strong case for Coach of the Year.

Excelling in the NBA and music, Nurse is a regular Damian Lillard.

Report: Suns forward Kelly Oubre Jr. diagnosed with torn meniscus

Suns forward Kelly Oubre Jr.
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Suns forward Kelly Oubre Jr. is transitioning from raw young player to solid starter.

His progress will be stalled.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

This could end Oubre’s season.

At 4.5 games and five teams out of postseason position, the Suns (24-35) have hung in the playoff race. But this could sink their already-slim chances.

Oubre will earn $14,375,000 in the final year of his contract next season. There will be plenty of attention on his health and athleticism entering 2021 free agency.

Chris Paul says he once nearly teamed up with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade

Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James
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LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony teaming up? That banana-boat fantasy has drawn intrigue for years.

LeBron and Wade played together on the Heat and Cavaliers. Paul and Anthony played together on the Rockets.

But apparently three of them once nearly united.

Paul, via Bleacher Report:

Another story: Me, Bron and D almost had a chance one time. But we didn’t know who was going to wear No. 3.

Sometime in the past 15 years.

Despite Paul playing coy, we can make guesses about when and where:

Did Miami ever consider trading Chris Bosh for Paul? New Orleans traded Paul to the Clippers in 2011, the offseason after the first Heatles team lost in the NBA Finals. That was a window in which Miami could have considered a shakeup. Perhaps, New Orleans would have prioritized younger players than Bosh, but his value could have made a multi-team trade work.

In 2017, Wade signed a minimum contract to join LeBron in Cleveland. Earlier that summer, Paul opted in to facilitate a trade to the Rockets. But Wade-to-Cavs rumors were already percolating. Perhaps, Paul could have worked a trade to the Cavaliers, who were already looking into trading Kyrie Irving. The Clippers were interested in Irving.

The Rockets offered a possibility in 2018. Paul was already on the roster. LeBron and Wade were free agents. But Wade had already said he wouldn’t leave Miami again, and LeBron never seemed too interested in Houston. The Rockets also began that season with Anthony, so if this were the situation, Paul would have likely mentioned the fourth friend.

At various times in their careers, LeBron, Wade and Paul had the star power to dictate terms to many teams. Many executives would have jettisoned their whole roster just for a chance at those three. Maybe a big-market team like the Lakers or Knicks were a possibility. The Clippers could have traded Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to clear room for LeBron and Wade while Paul was in L.A.

Really, it could have happened anywhere.

Maybe we’ll eventually get the full story.