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Jahlil Okafor says he’s ‘learned how to identify, manage different stressors such as anxiety’

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Jahlil Okafor is trying to take advantage of his chance with the New Orleans Pelicans this season.

He talked about it in an Instagram post, and most people focused on the pictures of his improved physique. Which is improved.

My summer of transformation: First off I want to thank @idanwan & @dzandertraining for getting after it with me the moment my season ended. Grateful to have two of the best in their respective fields work with me all summer. Although the physical changes in this photo are evident, their has been extreme growth unbenounced to the eye. I’ve learned how to identify and manage different stressors such as anxiety. Learning how to identify certain stressors has also allowed me to over come them. Often times because of my size and profession people may view me in a certain way, but in reality I deal with the same struggles as countless others. Mental health awareness is a cause I will fight for the rest of my life and if you’re struggling today don’t be afraid to speak with someone and seek help. I would like to thank @kevinlove and the @playerstribune for helping me identify my feelings and informing me what I was dealing with was in fact normal. 6 weeks left in the off season; with a lot more work to do!

A post shared by Jahlil Okafor (@jah8) on

However, the text was interesting:

I’ve learned how to identify and manage different stressors such as anxiety. Learning how to identify certain stressors has also allowed me to over come them…. Mental health awareness is a cause I will fight for the rest of my life and if you’re struggling today don’t be afraid to speak with someone and seek help. I would like to thank @kevinlove and the @playerstribune for helping me identify my feelings and informing me what I was dealing with was in fact normal.

NBA players stepping forward and admitting they need help dealing with mental challenges and illness is a good thing. Kevin Love helped Okafor, and hopefully Okafor talking about it will help others.

Okafor has a clean slate in New Orleans. He missed much of last season due to injury, and between his time with the Sixers and Nets he was on the court for just 353 minutes total. In New Orelans there are bench minutes available (behind Anthony Davis, Nikola Mirotic, and Julius Randle, but Okafor needs to show he can run the floor and play the up-tempo style the Pelicans employ. Okafor’s below the rim, back-to-the-basket offensive game, plus he poor defense, have held him back. If he’s got his body and mind right, maybe some of that can change.

Kevin Love on LeBron James: ‘He’s playing chess and everyone else is playing checkers’

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Kevin Love is the man in Cleveland now, with LeBron James having gone to Hollywood.

But it’s not going to be the same, and Love knows it. The best player of his generation is gone, and Love had nothing but praise for LeBron and his willingness to take on a challenge in a sit-down interview with ESPN.

Love is right, LeBron loves a challenge, but the one with the Lakers is unlike anything else in his career. Expectations are through the roof for a team that has undergone a roster upheaval, and while those kinds of teams can take a little bit to come together, if that happens and the Lakers get off to a slow start in the West it will be a lot harder to dig out of it than it was after the Cavs’ annual mid-season slump in the East. LeBron is on a team with young players and a lot of stop-gap one-year contracts set up to help them get another star (at the trade deadline or next summer). That makes they dynamics of this season different for LeBron (although he would never admit to it, saying winning was the goal from the start).

Love has got his own challenges. He may not be able to lead the Cavaliers to the playoffs this season. However, he could be a sneaky good fantasy pickup now that he’s going to get a lot more touches.

 

Five free agents still available who can help teams

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The NBA summer is basically over. We are now closer to the start of the new season than we are the end of the NBA Finals and most teams have their rosters set, they are just adding training camp invites. Or, guys who could maybe get the 14th or 15th roster spot.

Still, some name free agents can help teams.

Here are the big five on the market still.

1. Rodney Hood (restricted). At this point, he’s going to remain a Cavalier next season. No team is making an offer the Cavaliers wouldn’t just match (only Sacramento has the cap space to do it, and they are focused on others at the wing), meaning the only question left is if he plays for the $3.4 million qualifying offer or if the two sides work out a different deal.

How his stock has fallen. One year ago he was preparing for a season where he expected to be the go-to scorer of the Utah Jazz. By the end of the season he barely got off the bench in Cleveland (and in one case would not get off the bench).

That said, he can help a Cavaliers team that doesn’t want to just tear it down despite LeBron James leaving (see the Kevin Love contract). Hood is a 6’8” wing who can get buckets, and the Cavaliers could use that. Play well, rehab his image, and he will not be in this situation a year from now.

2. Jamal Crawford. He’s 38 years old (which scares some teams), and his efficiency has slipped, but the man can still get buckets off the bench (10.3 points per game last season) and more than a few teams could use that. Plus he’s seen as good in the locker room. He turned down a $4.5 million player option with the Timberwolves because he wanted a bigger role (he was getting 20 minutes a game last season) but at this point that is apparently off the table. Still, some team is going to pick him up.

3. Dwyane Wade. He’s made it clear, if he comes back it will be with the Miami Heat for one year. While a rumor got going on Twitter Tuesday that he was close to signing a contract with the Heat, I was told by sources that is not the case. Then Wade Tweeted this:

Nobody knows for sure, but I would lean retirement over return at this point. That said, the decision will come when Wade is ready, not before. He’s earned that right.

4. Nick Young. No team could use some Swaggy P? He’s a character, often doesn’t play within the flow in the offense, he doesn’t play great defense, but he just played 17 minutes a game for the NBA champions, hr hit some threes and shot 41 percent from deep, and made some plays. Another guy who is not young (11 years in the league) but some team will likely give a chance (if not at the start of the season, as a mid-season replacement).

5. David West. His role shrank with the Warriors last season — he averaged 6.8 points last season on 13.7 minutes a game — but he was still efficient when he was on the court (a 20.9 PER). Plus, he is excellent in the locker room. A lot of younger teams could use his presence in the locker room, but he may be a mid-season replacement for a team looking for front-line depth.

Honorable Mention: Joe Johnson. He’s 37-years-old and has 17 seasons of miles on his legs, but he still knows how to play the game. He struggled to help Houston or Utah last season, but don’t be shocked if he is a mid-season pickup by a team.

• Added note: Trevor Booker would have been on this list, but he decided to take the cash in China for a season.

Report Cavaliers still trying to trade J.R. Smith or Kyle Korver

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The Cavaliers are not going full tear-it-down rebuild. At least not yet. They re-signed Kevin Love and other veterans — George Hill and Tristan Thompson, for example — and while they are not dangerous they are a potential playoff team in a down East.

However, some of those veterans could be on the move this season.

J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver, in particular, remain on the trade block, Joe Varden of the Oklahoman reiterated on his latest podcast.

That’s not new news, they have shopped those two around all off-season, but there have been no offers to the team’s liking. Yet. Maybe an injury in training camp or early in the season will change the dynamic and a better offer will come in. Maybe the Cavaliers will just accept the lesser offers as they best they can do. However, one way or another one or both of those two will be on the move before the trade deadline to a playoff team.

Smith will make $14.7 million this season and has just a $3.9 million guaranteed for 2019-20. Korver will earn $7.5 million this season and also has just a $3.4 million guaranteed for the following season if a team wants to buy him out.

Report: Cavaliers sign Kevin Love to four-year, $120 million contract extension

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With LeBron James gone and Kyrie Irving not wanting to be heir to the throne (that Irving held before LeBron’s return), the Cavaliers have found their new franchise player.

Kevin Love – who appeared in trade rumors earlier this offseason – is locking in with Cleveland long-term.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

Love’s max extension would have been worth $129,663,878 over four years. So, he didn’t get all that. But he still got a lot.

Probably too much.

Love is a very good player and looked elite before trying to contort his game to fit with LeBron and Irving. In Minnesota, Love proved capable of carrying a good team, peaking with a sixth-place finish in 2012 MVP voting. That the Timberwolves never made the playoffs with him wasn’t his fault. They played excellently with him on the floor and fell totally apart whenever he rested.

But that was several years ago. Love will turn 31 before playing on this extension, and as good as he remains, I’d be wary of paying him so much during that phase of his career. Playing without LeBron and Irving could free Love in some ways, but after aging and injuries, he might no longer possess the athleticism necessary to turn back into Minnesota Love.

This is also troubling for the Cavs, because it clarifies their position as a win-now team. They owe the Hawks a top-10-protected first-round pick. Best case, Love helps Cleveland reach the playoffs and send Atlanta a low pick. But this lacking, though veteran roster, is in danger of barely missing the postseason and conveying a pick in the dreaded 11-14 range.

Love would have had a chance to earn more in unrestricted free agency next summer – a projected $221 million over five years if he re-signed or $164 million over four years if he signed elsewhere. He also held a $25,595,700 player option for 2019-20 as insurance. He obviously was far from guaranteed of landing a max contract in free agency, but he is bypassing a large upside.

By all accounts, Love seems happy in Cleveland. Some of that was certainly tied to championship contention, now a remnant of the past. But it clearly went deeper.

And all that money doesn’t hurt, either.