It’s official, J.R. Smith opts out of $6.5 million deal with Cavaliers, but he wants to return


J.R. Smith did a fantastic job getting the PhunkeeDuck scooter company some free publicity during the NBA Finals, but that was about the extent of things he did well. He didn’t exactly endear himself to Cavaliers fans with his performance.

The question now is will he be back next season in Cleveland?

Wednesday Smith made the expected official and opted out of his contract for next season with the Cavaliers, as reported by Shams Charania of Real GM.

Smith was traded to the Cavaliers from the Knicks at the trade deadline, and it was he, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov that helped turn the Cavaliers’ season around. Smith provided a spark off the bench and some depth that the Cavaliers had lacked. Sure, he was inconsistent and described his play in the Finals as “horses—“ but that’s what you get with Smith, he is the walking definition of the hot hand theory.

The Cavaliers may want him back but at what price?

My guess is it’s a million or so below the $6.4 he was to make last year, but for three years or so. That would give the Cavaliers some depth at a fair price and Smith some stability.

The question is will another GM, after missing out on a target, come in over the top with a larger offer?

Report: LeBron James will not be recruiting Kevin Love this time around


Kevin Love was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers this season because LeBron James wanted it to happen.

More than just going home, LeBron’s return to Cleveland was a return to power — he has sway in Cleveland that Pat Riley would never have surrendered in Miami. LeBron doesn’t want to look like he’s pulling the strings, but he can make the Cavaliers franchise dance any way he wants. And he wanted Love, so the promising Andrew Wiggins was sent to Minnesota (where he was the Rookie of the Year), and Love was a Cavalier.

Now, after a rocky year that ended early after a shoulder separation in the playoffs, Kevin Love has opted out of his contract. This makes Love an unrestricted free agent.

Love has repeatedly said he plans to remain a Cavalier, opting out was simply about the money (he can make $2.3 million more next season by re-signing with the Cavaliers).

But this time around LeBron is not going to recruit Love to stay with Cavaliers, reports Chris Haynes of the Plains Dealer.

Here’s the thing to watch: Does Kevin Love take meetings with other teams? The Lakers, Celtics, Trail Blazers, the Knicks and a host of other teams will call. Will he and his agent pick up the phone?

I doubt it. Expect Love to sign a two-year deal with an opt-out after one year with the Cavaliers (exactly what LeBron will do) then he will be a free agent again next in 2016 when the cap spikes.

Whether he takes meetings in 2016 is another question entirely.

Report: Celtics to sell Kevin Love on teaming with Robin Lopez and Paul Pierce


Now that Kevin Love is opting out of his contract, the free agency courting process begins. The Cavs are still the frontrunner to re-sign him — the ability to play with LeBron James and compete for a title every year is probably too much to pass up. But plenty of other teams will make their pitches, not least of all the Celtics, who have been linked to Love for some time. Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski has some interesting new details on the pitch the Celtics are planning to make to Love, which involves the potential return of Paul Pierce to Boston.

There’s a lot going on here. Putting aside the idea of Pierce returning to Boston, which is its own discussion, it’s still difficult to see how this scenario the Celtics are pitching is more appealing than the situation Love already has in Cleveland. Robin Lopez, if he were to sign in Boston, is pretty much the ideal big man to pair with Love, a rim-protecting rebounding machine who doesn’t need the ball and can cover up a lot of Love’s defensive deficiencies. But you know who else is an ideal rim protector and offensive cleanup man to pair with Love? Timofey Mozgov.

Phoenix is more of a long-shot, but he’d be a good fit there, too. They took a step back last year after the loss of Channing Frye, and Love can give them a better version of that same skill set.

What Love does in free agency will come down to how much he values being the No. 1 option on a team versus playing on a contender. If winning is the most important objective, you don’t walk away from playing with the best player in the world, especially in a weak Eastern Conference where you’re more or less guaranteed to make the Eastern Conference Finals at a minimum every year — and probably the Finals. But the Cavs will never be Love’s team, and if he wants that, the Celtics would be a better option. The Celtics have plenty of assets and cap space to chase other players to put around him, as well as a nice young core with Marcus Smart and Jared Sullinger. And if playing with Kelly Olynyk is a problem, Olynyk won’t be difficult to move. It’s not unthinkable that this happens.

Still, the Cavs should be considered the frontrunner to keep Love unless something crazy happens.

Report: Kevin Love opts out of contract, will be a free agent


To the surprise of nobody, Kevin Love will be a free agent on July 1.’s Marc Stein reports that he’s officially opted out of the final year of his contract with the Cavs:

What does this mean? Probably nothing. He was always going to opt out, if only to sign a one-year deal to remain with the Cavs, or a two-year deal with a player option on the second year. Even if he wants to stay with the Cavs long-term, it’s in his best interests to a) get as much money as possible now, and signing a one-year deal at the max will pay him around $3 million more than the final year of his previous deal, and b) put himself in the best position to be a free agent in one of the following two offseasons, when the league’s TV deal kicks in and the salary cap spikes.

The smart money is still on Love remaining in Cleveland, despite the logjam in the frontcourt that will come when they inevitably re-sign Tristan Thompson. Cleveland can pay him the most money of any team, and it’s tough for anyone to walk away from playing with LeBron James, which essentially means you’re guaranteed to be contending for a championship in the Eastern Conference every year. Plenty of teams will make calls to Love’s agent on July 1 — the Lakers, Knicks and Celtics all have money to burn, and his hometown Blazers could be a dark-horse option if LaMarcus Aldridge leaves. But there’s still every reason to believe he’ll stay with the Cavaliers, if just for another year.

NBC’s Joe Posnanski: What Dell, Stephen Curry mean to Charlotte


The NBA All-Star Game is coming to Charlotte in February 2017.

That summer, Stephen Curry will be a free agent.

If you thought there was pressure on LeBron James to return to Cleveland — or on Kevin Durant to return to Washington D.C. in the summer of 2016 — wait until you see the questions rain down on Curry in 2017 at the All-Star Game.

Curry’s father Dell was one of the first heroes of the Charlotte Hornets (along with Muggsy Bogues), and Dell is still beloved in that city.

It’s where Stephen Curry grew up, developed that ridiculous quick release and shooting range out to the South Carolina border.

Over at NBC’s SportsWorld site, the incomparable Joe Posnanski delves deep into the Currys and Charlotte.

In his 10 years in Charlotte, (Dell) Curry became the quintessential Hornet. To this day, in team history he has played the most games, scored the most points, made the most field goals, taken the most shots (by almost 3,000), committed the most fouls. And he and his wife Sonya were always around town, too, doing charity stuff, appearing at fundraisers, holding basketball camps. Owning a Curry jersey in Charlotte in those days was practically a city ordinance.

And his oldest son, Steph, came of age in Charlotte right in the middle of the Dell Curry Era…

“He was just this little, small-type kid,” (Steph’s) high school coach, Shonn Brown, would say. “You could see he could already shoot the ball and he understood the game.”

“Tiny,” says Brian Field, who at the time was an assistant coach for Providence Day, one of Charlotte Christian’s rivals. “I mean, he was good — he was one of the better players. But he was so small. He was winging it from the hip because there was no other way for him to get the ball to the rim.”

This is the enduring memory of the young Steph Curry: An almost impossibly small and slight kid firing shots from his side. “He could hoist it up there pretty good,” Brown says. “He had really good accuracy making shots. It was something to see, him making shots from all over the place when he’s just firing it up there with all his might. Well, what would you expect? His father was a shooter.”

It is from there the legend of Curry came — he could play, but not enough to impress Virginia Tech or any of the powerhouse college hoop programs that litter North Carolina. But things were changing. Curry was already working hard on his handles; then he changed that low, slinging shot into the work of art we know today.

And then came the shot change. Steph Curry had developed his side-slinging shot to the point where it was the best high school shot in the city. But in Steph’s junior year, Dell Curry pulled his son aside and told him that he had to move up the release point, that his shot would be too easy to block at the next level. At the time, Dell was an assistant coach at Charlotte Christian, and he told Brown that he was going to guide Steph through the shot transformation. Changing that shot was, in many ways, the toughest thing Steph Curry has done in basketball.

“I made some suggestions,” Brown says. “But then I thought, ‘Why am I getting into this?’ Let the shooter take over. He’s an NBA veteran and a great shooter, and that’s his son. They got after it, I can tell you that. They shot everywhere — at school, at home, at the downtown arena, everywhere.”

Do yourself a favor, go read the entire story — Posnanski is to sports writing what Curry’s shot is to the NBA. It’s more art than practical craft. He tells a great story.

And there are few stories as fun as Stephen Curry’s rise.