Family at heart of decision for LeBron on Lakers contract extension

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LeBron James has been in the media spotlight since he was a high school junior and on the cover of Sports Illustrated as “The Chosen One.” He’s become comfortable in that glare and a master message sender — he choreographs everything he says, every Instagram post, so that the image and message he wants are projected to the world. Nothing is an accident.

The day before the Lakers could — and later on Thursday will — offer him a two-year, $97.1 million contract extension that would keep him in purple and gold through age 40, what was the message LeBron sent? He worked out with his sons Bronny and Bryce at the Lakers’ practice facility.

The post is another in a long line this summer highlighting how much family means to LeBron, and this shows how entrenched in Los Angles he and his family are now.

Family appears to be the biggest factor in LeBron James’ decision to sign an extension with the Lakers, something he can officially do today (Thursday, Aug. 4).

LeBron has a long history of using short-term contracts to leverage what he wants out of an organization, and these Lakers, as constructed, are not title contenders. The Russell Westbrook trade situation looms over the team, as do questions about whether they will use both of their tradable first-round picks — 2027 and 2029, the last picks they can trade this decade — to make significant roster changes. The Lakers fired their head coach, brought in a new one and revamped the role player roster to get more athleticism and shooting, but that will only take this team so far. Would LeBron signing an extension make the Lakers more likely to use future picks to bolster the current team? Maybe.

That’s all business. Ultimately for LeBron, family is first — and his family is comfortable in Los Angeles.

That is why most people NBC Sports has spoken with around the league expect LeBron to sign the extension in some form. Eventually. He may well milk the leverage to send a message about roster changes — although it’s not like Rob Pelinka and company have not tried to trade Westbrook — but in the end, LeBron does not give off the vibe of a guy looking to bolt Los Angeles.

At least until his son Bronny becomes NBA draft eligible in two years. LeBron has made it clear he wants to play a season with his son. It is the one thing everyone believes he would leave Los Angeles to do. Maybe the Lakers would use their 2024 first-round pick to select Bronny and keep the family working out at their practice facility, except the Lakers don’t control that pick. The Pelicans do from the Anthony Davis trade. As Joe Varden laid out well at The Athletic this week, the Pelicans have the option of using that 2024 pick or deferring to 2025 and letting the Lakers select in 2024. It’s obviously far too early for anyone to make that call. (Also, how good an NBA prospect Bronny is remains in question, a lot of scouts don’t have him in the first round if drafted at all. But if picking Bronny also gets a team the big box office that is LeBron for a season, the calculus changes.)

LeBron has three options with the Lakers’ extension offer (which would add years beyond coming season, where LeBron will make $44.5 million with Los Angeles):

1) Ignore it, don’t sign it, and become a free agent next summer.
2) Sign it for the full two years and lock himself in with the Lakers until age 40.
3) Sign for one additional year, or one year with a player option for the second year (a 1+1).

Option 3 keeps LeBron settled in Los Angeles but with flexibility if and when Bronny enters the NBA in another market. Most sources around the league NBC spoke with expected LeBron will go with option three — a 1+1 — but that he may take his time signing it. There is no rush (the extension can be signed through next June). And if that keeps the pressure on the Lakers to upgrade the roster, all the better.

If LeBron takes his time with the extension, speculation will run rampant on social media. Welcome to the modern NBA. Talk of a LeBron return to Cleveland will grow. But LeBron will keep his eye focused on what matters to him. And that is family.

 

Dolan says he he has no plan to sell Knicks, retire, but he loves facial recognition

Celebrity Sightings In New York City - October 06, 2022
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Knicks owner James Dolan has been better in recent years about staying out of the way of the front office and staying out of the media spotlight — both of which are good for the Knicks and their fans’ sanity.

However, he stepped back in the spotlight the past couple of days — doing an interview on “Good Day New York” on Fox 5 Thursday then WFAN sports talk radio on Friday — and reminded everyone why it’s best when he stays out of it. Here are the highlights of these interviews.

• Dolan isn’t going anywhere, saying to WFAN he is not selling the team, nor does he plan to retire. Via Fred Katz at The Athletic:

“I have no plans whatsoever to sell at this point. I’m not retiring anytime soon. It’s a family-controlled asset, so someone in the family will eventually own it.”

That was a bit of a pipe dream for Knicks fans, there had been no rumors of a sale. With the value of NBA franchises rising rapidly and Dolan enjoying being the owner of one of the biggest brands in the sport, there has been little chance of a sale.

• Dolan defended Madison Square Garden’s controversial use of facial recognition technology to ban attorneys from firms involved in lawsuits against the Knicks or MSG from entering the property (or other Madison Square Garden properties, such as Radio City Music Hall).

“At Madison Square Garden, if you’re suing us, we’re just asking of you — please don’t come until you’re done with your argument with us. And yes, we’re using facial recognition to enforce that…

“If someone is suing you, that’s confrontational. It’s adversarial. If you’re being sued, you don’t have to welcome that person into your home.”

Except, it isn’t a home, it’s a public building where sports and entertainment events take place for which tickets are sold. Also, there are fans saying they have been banned from the building because of social media posts critical of Dolan.

• This policy has created a considerable backlash, including from the New York Attorney General, who said the policy could violate anti-discrimination laws in the state. Lawmakers in the New York state assembly introduced a bill prohibiting sports venues — such as Madison Square Garden — from refusing entry to attorneys or others involved in lawsuits against the organization.

• Dolan said on FOX 5 that the State Liquor Authority reached out to the Madison Square Garden company saying the use of facial recognition technology in this manner could lead to a suspension of their liquor license.

“This isn’t going to bother me because I’ve been sober 29 years. I don’t need the liquor.”

Dolan even hinted he could do a dry New York Rangers game on Fox, but he backed away from that idea the next day speaking on WFAN.

• Dolan reiterated his support of current Knicks decision-maker Leon Rose.

Dolan also went on to say he expects the Knicks to make the playoffs this season, however, there is no timeline for the team to contend for a ring.

What will Rockets do at trade deadline? Send out Gordon? Bring in Collins?

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There’s a sense in league circles that this is the final season Houston will be okay with having one of the worst — as of today, the worst — record in the NBA. The Rockets hope to grab one of the big names at the top of the draft board this season, but they already have drafted Jalen Green at No. 2 (2021) and Jabari Smith Jr. at No. 3 (2022), plus made a draft night trade for Alperen Şengün (who is playing well). With cap space to spend and extensions coming up, the tanking days will be over.

How will that impact the Rockets at this trade deadline? Here are a few names to watch.

Kelly Iko at The Athletic reports the Rockets have interest in the Hawks’ John Collins and the sides have talked, but there is no real traction yet.

There has been nothing concrete from the Rockets — merely ideas floated by the Hawks to Houston among other teams — but the interest is real.

The Rockets could also be part of a larger, three-team trade to move Collins.

Eric Gordon remains on the trade block, as he has been for more than a year. Gordon has been frustrated waiting, but the Rockets have held out for what they thought was fair — a first-round pick — to no avail. That price likely comes down, and according to Iko at The Athletic, the front office is “more inclined to trade him now” than in the past, but the proof will be in a deal.

• Teams also are calling about K.J. Martin, according to Iko.

K.J. Martin, there continues to be interest in the 22-year-old combo forward who has been quite productive as a starter — averaging 14 points and seven rebounds on 35 percent shooting from 3 — but nothing concrete at this juncture in terms of offers on the table.

The Rockets like Martin, it’s going to take a serious offer to get them to consider it.

Knicks reportedly offered multiple first-round picks for OG Anunoby, got nowhere

Boston Celtics v Toronto Raptors
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What are the Toronto Raptors going to do at the trade deadline?

It’s less than two weeks before the trade deadline and the entire NBA is still asking that question, the Raptors are the one team that could turn this trade deadline from a dud to epic if they decide to pivot toward a rebuild. Are they willing to trade players like OG Anunoby or Pascal Siakam, or will they look to add a more traditional big man such as the Spurs’ Jakob Poeltl, who has been linked to the Raptors in rumors? Everything seems to be on the table.

Anunoby is a player a lot of teams covet, including New York. The Knicks reached out to the Raptors, reports Ian Begley of SNY.TV.

“And Anunoby with Toronto, I mean, that would cost you a lot. That would cost you significant draft compensation. Maybe the Knicks are there, maybe they’re feeling like they could make the playoffs and make a big push if you added in Anunoby. I know that we reported they contacted Toronto on Anunoby and I was told in that conversation they offered multiple firsts. But this was a while back… Toronto has done a lot since then. But I don’t think the league is crystal clear on what [the Raptors] want to do on Anunoby.”

Anunoby is an elite on-ball wing defender who can be a finisher, averaging 17.3 points and 5.6 rebounds a game at age 25 — the asking price will start at two unprotected first-round picks in this market. The Knicks may have thrown some of their protected picks in the conversation, but Toronto’s asking price is reportedly sky-high because they’re not eager to get rid of him.

Anunoby is making $17.4 million this season and is under contract for $18.2 million next season, a fair price for what he brings to the court (he has a player option at $19.9 million in 2024-25). What the Raptors do with him may signal their direction.

At the deadline, most people around the league expect Toronto to trade Gary Trent Jr., but that’s it. Any other big moves are likely this offseason. If ever.

Reprots: Luka Doncic day-to-day with “mild” ankle sprain

Washington Wizards v Dallas Mavericks
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While there are grades of ankle sprains, ask anyone trying to walk around on one if there is a “mild” version.

Yet that’s what Mavericks sources say about Luka Doncic’s ankle sprain suffered against the Suns on Thursday night. He is “day-to-day” with the injury, a story first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (and since confirmed by others).

Doncic has been playing through ankle soreness in recent weeks and it’s fair to expect the Mavericks to give him a few games off. However, it can’t be too many for a team fighting for a playoff spot, the Mavs are 0-5 in games Doncic has rested this season and have been outscored by 5.3 points per 100 possessions this season when he sits (although they did beat the Suns largely without him Thursday). Doncic is an All-Star starter averaging 33.8 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.6 assists a game.

Dallas plays next on Saturday against the Jazz. It would be a surprise to see Doncic suit up for that game.

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