Ten biggest NBA signings of the decade

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The amnesty clause, stretch provision and rapidly rising salary cap made toxic contracts less burdensome in the last decade than other times. On the highest levels, it was more about attracting top talent. Here are the most significant NBA signings – for better or worse – of the last decade (sign-and-trades that occurred after a player chose his destination count here):

10. Chris Bosh signs with Heat in 2010

He wasn’t the biggest star to sign with Miami that summer. Maybe the Heat still would have won big with their two superstars (more on them later) and Bosh’s big money divided among role players. But Miami signing three stars – not two stars and a few helpful role players – transfixed everyone. Considering how well he morphed into a supporting style, it’s easy to forget how good Bosh was with the Raptors. He was a go-to scorer, a perennial All-Star, a bona fide franchise player. And he played third fiddle for the Heat this summer.

9. Kyrie Irving signs with Nets in 2019

8. Kevin Durant signs with Nets in 2019

These signings go together, and obviously Brooklyn hasn’t accomplished anything notable yet. But Durant is an all-time great, and Irving is a true star. Them joining forces is notable – especially how they did it. Durant made waves by leaving the mighty Warriors. Irving caused an uproar by leaving the Celtics after pledging to re-sign. This was a wake-up call: Super teams can pop up anywhere.

7. Dwyane Wade signs with Heat in 2010

He also wasn’t the biggest star to sign with Miami that summer, and re-signing didn’t carry the same fanfare as switching teams. But Wade was an elite player who explored the market, especially the Bulls. Wade staying with the Heat keyed one of the biggest stories in NBA history and led to Miami winning two more titles.

6. Kawhi Leonard signs with Clippers in 2019

By leaving the Raptors, Leonard became the first consensus star to leave a defending champion for another team. That’s the Clippers’ gain, though we’ll see how far Leonard lifts L.A., especially considering his health concerns. Still, Leonard deserves the benefit of the doubt that he’ll manage his load through the long regular season and be ready for the playoffs. At his best, Leonard is arguably the NBA’s best player.

5. Stephen Curry signs four-year, $44 million extension with Warriors in 2012

When Curry was up for his rookie-scale contract extension, the Warriors reportedly told him they’d pay the max if he waited for free agency and got healthy. Instead, Curry — who’d been plagued by ankle injuries — took the security of this extension. That set the stage for a dynasty. Curry blossomed into an all-time great, and his bargain salary allowed Golden State to add Andre Iguodala then Kevin Durant. By not complaining about being underpaid, Curry helped set a team-first tone of sacrifice on the star-studded Warriors.

4. LeBron James signs with Lakers in 2018

LeBron immediately put the Lakers on another level. He didn’t immediately lift them from the lottery, but he changed how people viewed the once-great, but more-recently down-and-out franchise. With LeBron, the Lakers became an even bigger attention magnet. They lured Anthony Davis. Now, LeBron and Davis have Los Angeles back in title contention.

3. LeBron James signs with Cavaliers in 2014

LeBron does whatever he wants. Returning to Cleveland, where he was vilified? To a lousy team? Owned by Dan Gilbert, who wrote that heinous letter? That didn’t even have max cap room? LeBron demanded the Cavs do their part then made it all work. He forced the Cavaliers to clear more cap space, orchestrated a trade of No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love, got Gilbert to spend huge, put the team on his back and – in the signature moment of his career –a ended Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought. Then, he left again.

2. Kevin Durant signs with Warriors in 2016

Durant both shook the rest of the league and torpedoed his own reputation by leaving the Thunder for the Warriors. Golden State won two straight titles and built a credible case as best team ever. But, despite his individual dominance, Durant couldn’t shake criticism for leaving the Thunder for the team that just beat them in the playoffs. Still, Durant led the Warriors to multiple championships. That’ll get remembered longer after heat-of-the-moment criticism fades.

1. LeBron James signs with Heat in 2010

This wasn’t just the biggest signing of the decade. It was the NBA’s biggest story of the decade. LeBron transformed the league’s power structure, tilting balance toward players. The NBA hasn’t been the same since. The Decision was pompous, and we still couldn’t look away. The Heat became the major story and generated massive attention. They delivered with four straight conference titles and two championships.

Durant tired of talking Nets dramatic offseason: ‘I didn’t miss any games’

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No team had an offseason quite like the Brooklyn Nets. First, they would not give a long-term extension to Kyrie Irving, which sent the star guard looking for a new team (but there were no offers that worked for everyone, so he opted in with Brooklyn). Then Kevin Durant asked for a trade, and to gain a little leverage reportedly threw down an ultimatum of him or the coach and GM. No trade could be found — how much the Nets wanted one is up for debate — so he is back in Brooklyn. And all that is not even getting into the return of Ben Simmons, a trade for Royce O’Neal, or anything else.

The Nets drama and how they move past it has been the talk of training camp. The only talk at training camp, it feels like.

When asked Friday if there were any inaccuracies in the reporting of the Nets summer he would like to clear up, Durant sounded weary of rehashing the summer.

The only thing that will start to move the conversation in a new direction is the Nets playing and winning games (they open the preseason Monday against the 76ers). And even those wins will have the shadow of the offseason cast over them. Durant and Irving made this bed.

Part of the fascination is the Nets remain the team hardest to predict in the league. They arguably have the most talented roster in the league and, if everything comes together just right, they can contend for a title. It’s also possible the wheels fall off early and by Christmas the Nets are looking to trade Durant again. Both things feel possible (even if reality most likely lands somewhere in the middle).

That uncertainty about the Nets’ future is the drama that will keep eyeballs on them — which also means more questions about this past offseason. Durant can choose not to answer them, but the questions aren’t going away.

Highlights from Clippers preseason win fueled by Luke Kennard

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No Kawhi Leonard. Or Paul George. Or John Wall, Norman Powell, Reggie Jackson and Nic Batum. The Clippers decided to rest six key rotation players in their preseason opener in Seattle against Maccabi Ra’anana, a game played in Seattle.

All those guys are expected to suit up Monday when the Clippers play the Portland Trail Blazers in a preseason game also in Seattle, the first NBA exhibition game played in the city since 2018.

Against Maccabi, it was the Luke Kennard show as he had 16 points.

The Clippers also got 14 points and 13 boards from Moses Brown. As a team, the Clippers cruised and put up a few highlights.

The Clippers have great depth, which should allow them to survive a season where both Leonard and George are expected to get their share of load management nights off. Leonard missed all of last season coming off a torn ACL, and George played in just 31 games due to a few injuries, including a shoulder issue. Still, the Clippers finished eighth in the West with a 42-40 record and had a top 10 defense in the league.

Adding Leonard and George to that mix is why the Clippers are considered title contenders out West. Monday night against the Blazers we should get our first look at the real Clippers team for this season. But Los Angeles is 1-0 this preseason.

Report: Udoka used ‘crude language’ with female subordinate prior to improper relationship

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The Boston Celtics handled the Ime Udoka investigation and suspension by the corporate handbook: They kept the woman’s name out of the news, kept details confidential (not even telling the players much for legal reasons), and acted swiftly and decisively.

But as the team on the court starts defending its Eastern Conference title, there has been a concern that details leaking out about the investigations — and responses to those leaks — could turn this into a season-long drama and distraction for the team. That first started on Friday when Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported this:

The independent law firm probe into Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka found that he used crude language in his dialogue with a female subordinate prior to the start of an improper workplace relationship with the woman, an element that significantly factored into the severity of his one-year suspension, sources told ESPN.

Those investigative findings — which described verbiage on Udoka’s part that was deemed especially concerning coming from a workplace superior — contribute to what is likely a difficult pathway back to his reinstatement as Celtics coach in 2023, sources told ESPN.

A few thoughts here.

• “Crude language” is just part of a more detailed and damning report, league sources have told NBC Sports. There is much more uncovered by the independent investigation, including about the power dynamic in play. It was enough that the Celtics thought the best move was to suspend for an entire season a coach loved by players who led the team to the NBA Finals (it’s not something the Celtics organization did lightly).

• As Wojnarowski and others have noted, it’s increasingly unlikely Udoka returns to coach the Celtics next season, even if that is not yet official.

• While some pundits and people around the league have said Udoka is “done,” the NBA has seen unexpected turnarounds before. Never say never in this league.

• About the only sure thing is that this story is not over.

Lillard poised to pass Drexler as Trail Blazers all-time leading scorer

2022-23 Portland Trail Blazers Media Day
Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images
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Damian Lillard could have done what a lot of NBA stars have done — what a lot of them told him to do while recruiting him — and has chosen to stay in Portland. He wants to be remembered as the greatest Trail Blazer ever.

One good way to do that: Become the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. Sometime around Thanksgiving or a little after, Lillard will do just that, passing Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler and his 18,040 points (Lillard is 531 back).

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports spoke to Lillard about when he knew the record was within reach, during Trail Blazers training camp in Santa Barbara, California (go Gauchos!). It was when Lillard got to 10,000 points.

“I was like, ‘Damn, I got 10,000 already?’ ” Lillard told Yahoo Sports he recalled at the time. “It was my sixth season in the league. That’s when I started thinking, if I could be consistent, I could score into the high 20,000-point range. As a scorer, 20,000 points is always looked at as a special mark. From that moment, I knew it was possible, but it’s also when I first researched Clyde Drexler’s [scoring] record with the team.”

Drexler is good with being passed by Lillard.

“You and I know records are made to be broken, but I can’t think of a better player or person to break the record than Dame,” Drexler told Yahoo Sports. “He exemplifies being a team player and going about his business in a professional way. I have nothing but admiration and respect for him. When he comes close to getting the record, and if our schedules align, I would love to be there to help out in any way I can. That’s a nice milestone to achieve. I am looking forward to him accomplishing that.”

Lillard is on a lot of front office people’s watch list this season, as in “how long before he is unhappy and asks for a trade?” The thing is, Lillard has been on that list for years and he keeps choosing Portland — he isn’t looking to leave. Of course, the $120 million extension and a retooling of the roster around him helped with that decision, but Lillard always had other options if he wanted them (and at times it felt like he would take them).

The Trail Blazers brought in Jerami Grant, re-signed Anfrenee Simons, and will put them with a solid core of others such as (a finally healthy) Jusuf Nurkic, Josh Hart, Gary Payton II and others. It’s a good roster, the question is how good in a deep West?

There are a lot of questions about how this season shakes out in Portland, but the one seeming sure thing is Lillard becoming the Trail Blazers’ all-time leading scorer. And that seems fitting.