Posted on: July 7, 2009 11:15 am
Edited on: July 7, 2009 1:25 pm
UPDATES THROUGHOUT with LeBron damage control.
The LeBron 2010 story keeps changing, as does the version that James himself reportedly gave to free agent Trevor Ariza.
After it was reported that James personally recruited Ariza by stating that he'd be in Cleveland beyond 2010, people close to LeBron have circled the wagons to refute it. ESPN.com, which ran the initial LeBron-Ariza story, is now running one with the LeBron camp's denials.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer was first to refute the notion that LeBron told Ariza of his intentions for Cleveland in 2010, "I'll be there. Of course I'll be there." The comments seemed to contradict James' public stance on whether he would decline his player option and become an unrestricted free agent after next season. James has consistently stated that he's happy in Cleveland but hasn't decided what he will do.
Either way, James' recruiting pitch didn't work with Ariza, who opted to verbally commit to the Rockets. It was an odd story to begin with, since James would never recruit free agents by telling them he's planning to leave.
Nonetheless, this is an example of how LeBron's clever non-answers and fence-sitting when it comes to what he'll do next summer have come back to bite him. On one hand, he has every right to leverage his player option as a tool for getting the best deal and keeping the pressure on the Cavs to surround him with the best possible talent to win a championship. On the other, could his wavering have hurt GM Danny Ferry's efforts to recruit another free agent to bolster the pre-draft trade for Shaquille O'Neal?
That's where the LeBron conspiracy theory loses me. What is hampering Ferry is not LeBron's uncertain future, but the simple fact that he has only the mid-level exception to offer. Granted, that's what Ariza ultimately got from the Rockets. It's the same deal Ariza turned down from the Lakers. Ron Artest was hell bent on signing with the Lakers, so it didn't matter what anybody else offered. The point is, players are going to sign where they get the most money -- and if money is a wash, they consider a wide array of factors. None of them should be willing to decide the next five years of his career based on what LeBron may or may not do next July. Especially now, since the story changes every five minutes.
Dwyane Wade felt compelled to go public with his position that if the Miami Heat fail to surround him with championship talent, he'll decline his player option after next season and bolt. That's his prerogative. Is Wade going to privately tell free agents and/or players the Heat might target in sign-and-trades that he was just kidding? Either way, the glamour free agents of 2010 reap what they sow in terms of how they choose to leverage their positions. Where LeBron is concerned, his decision has always been and will continue to be about how close the Cavs are to a championship next June.
Posted on: July 2, 2009 6:56 pm
Edited on: July 3, 2009 2:17 am
Shaq can have LeBron. Ron Artest says he'll take Kobe.
But Artest said talks with Cleveland "never got that far." Told that Cleveland, by all accounts, had extreme interest, Artest said, "I don't know how extreme. I love the Cleveland Cavaliers, though. I love LeBron and Coach (Mike) Brown and Shaq."
But what he really loves is L.A.
"L.A. is what it is," Artest said. "I've been here for the whole summer, and it's pretty good. It's good for me. I know Lamar Odom, so that's pretty cool."
Artest spoke as though Odom would return to the Lakers to join Artest and Kobe Bryant for another title run. Although the Spurs and several other teams were interested in Odom, the Lakers have the inside track. L.A.'s other free agent, Trevor Ariza, agreed Thursday to sign with Houston for the same mid-level deal Artest got from the Lakers.
Posted on: June 25, 2009 11:55 am
Yes, LeBron James was consulted about the Cavs' decision to go for broke and acquire Shaquille O'Neal. Yes, LeBron was all for it.
No, the blockbuster acquisition has no bearing on LeBron's decision on whether to sign an extension with Cleveland this summer, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
With two years left on the extension he signed in 2007 -- the last year, of course, with a player option -- James is eligible to sign as much as a four-year extension with Cleveland when the free-agent signing period begins next month. By doing so, he'd be forfeiting his right to decline the player option for the 2010-11 season. It's a tricky predicament. If league revenues decline by 5 percent next season -- half of commissioner David Stern's doomsday scenario of a 10 percent decline -- the salary cap for 2010-11 could go as low as $51 million, according to one team's internal projections. (The cap for this past season was $58.7 million.) With seven years of service in 2010, LeBron could max out at 30 percent of the cap as an unrestricted free agent. But 30 percent of the reduced cap is less than James' scheduled $17.1 million salary in 2010-11 (if he exercised the player option.) It's not supposed to work that way, but it's part of the new reality for everyone -- not just the NBA.
Without getting too complicated, the falling cap means that James would wind up with about $3.5 million more over the next five seasons by signing an extension with Cleveland this summer as opposed to opting out on July 1, 2010 and signing a new contract as an unrestricted free agent. In the grand scheme of what would be a $100 million-plus contract either way, $3.5 million is not a significant amount of "cheddar," as one team exec put it. But it's certainly worth thinking about, and it would be foolish to ignore the economic environment and its impact on LeBron's decision. At least you know that if LeBron doesn't re-sign this summer, it means he wants to wait and see what direction the Cavs take -- and he wants to do that badly enough to leave money on the table.
The bottom line is this: LeBron isn't making any decisions about his future until he sees how the Cavs perform this season. That means no extension this summer -- Shaq or no Shaq, $3.5 million or no $3.5 million. He could make that money up with one endorsement deal. And he'd rather win a championship than quibble over about 3 percent of his projected earnings.
"His whole thing is based on how they do this year, period," one rival exec said.
Which is another reason why trading for Shaq and going all-in for 2009-10 was a smart move by the Cavs -- for this season and beyond.
Posted on: June 25, 2009 1:00 am
Edited on: June 25, 2009 1:23 am
Shaquille O'Neal is bringing his Shaqness and four championship rings to Cleveland, which hasn't won a pro sports championship in 45 years.
Get the puppet commercials ready.
Posted on: June 14, 2009 3:53 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Cavaliers are taking an aggressive posture as they head into the draft and free-agent period, so it was only a matter of time before the Shaquille O'Neal talks heated up again.
Several media outlets began reporting Sunday that the Cavs and Suns have reignited talks about sending Shaq to Cleveland to help LeBron James in his quest for a championship. There wasn't much to reignite in the first place; widely hyped discussions involving O'Neal at the trade deadline were never on the verge of producing a deal. An executive familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com Sunday that the situation hasn't evolved much since then, expressing surprise at the flurry of reports.
But when you have two teams desperate to move assets -- Phoenix with Shaq's $20 million expiring contract, and Cleveland with Ben Wallace's $14 million expiring contract and Sasha Pavlovic's partially guaranteed deal -- smoke often gives way to fire. Throw in the fact that the Cavs are coming off a debilitating loss to Orlando in the conference finals and an embarrassing week that featured a false report about coach Mike Brown's future, and you can see why the time may be right to shift to focus to the team's pursuit of O'Neal.
The executive involved in the teams' dealings said he fully expects the O'Neal situation to move to the forefront once the clubs begin fully exploring their options in the draft and free agency, which begins next month. The Suns, coming off a 46-win, non-playoff season, are highly motivated to move O'Neal in a bid to avoid paying luxury tax. Acquiring Wallace and Pavlovic, whose $4.9 million contract is only guaranteed for $1.5 million next season, would save Phoenix as much as $10 million, including luxury tax savings.
The Cavs view Pavlovic's partial guarantee and several players on minimum deals as a built-in trade exception they can use to improve the roster and give LeBron the big man he needs to compete for a championship at the highest level. A person familiar with the Cavs' thinking said the team is open to any and all possibilities and plans to take an aggressive approach in retooling a roster that won a league-best 66 games but failed to reach the NBA Finals.
A wild card in the Shaq talks is Wallace, who stated after the playoff loss to the Magic that he was seriously considering retirement. Cavs management has yet to speak directly with Wallace about his intentions, and as of now the club doesn't expect him to walk away from the $14 million left on his deal. If Wallace reiterated his desire to retire, it would spur buyout talks that would free up cap space immediately. Short of that, Wallace would get no money and the $14 million he is owed would come off the Cavs' books.
The idea of Shaq in Cleveland as a running mate for LeBron would present endless storylines and the delicious possibility of Kobe Bryant -- if he returns to the Lakers -- meeting his former and current nemeses in next year's Finals. The marketing people would have a field day adding a Shaq puppet to the popular Kobe & LeBron commercials. Bryant would be presented with the challenge of pursuing his fifth championship against the player he won with -- and feuded with -- in L.A. and the player who is trying to claim Bryant's title as the best player in the game.
It almost sounds too good to be true, except that it's not. Just give it some time.
Posted on: June 9, 2009 8:50 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Mike Krzyzewski still isn't ready to renew his commitment to coaching Team USA, despite Jerry Colangelo's best efforts to push him for an answer.
"He was pushing the check," Coach K said of a recent dinner meeting in Chicago with Colangelo, the managing director of USA Basketball.
Krzyzewski said he expects to make a decision by July on whether he will return to the sideline for the 2010 World Championships in Turkey and the '12 Olympics in London. Participating in an announcement of iHoops, a new basketball collaboration among the NBA, NCAA, Nike, and adidas before Game 3 of the NBA Finals Tuesday night, Coach K said he had dinner in Chicago with Colangelo the night before, but didn't give him a commitment yet.
"I've met with Jerry to discuss the future, just these next four years," Krzyzewski said. "... By the time we have our [training camp] in mid-July, I think a lot of things will be put forward at that time. I think that’s a good launching point for USA Basketball."
Just as deftly as he passed on the question of returning to Team USA, Coach K nicely sidestepped a reporter who asked him to compare Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, since he's coached both of them.
"They’re both on my team," Krzyzewski said. "I think in Kobe’s case, in the NBA when you're six years apart, they have dogs’ lives in terms of their career. Kobe’s almost in a different part of his career. You can look at Kobe and say what he’s accomplished and what he’s still accomplishing. LeBron hasn’t done that. But can he do that? Yeah.
"LeBron is a very very unusual athlete," Coach K said. "He has that tattoo on his back, 'The Chosen One.' One day I said, 'I'm going to get a tattoo. I'm going to get that 'Chosen One' put on my back. He leaned down and said, 'Coach, there’s only one chosen one.' But he could be.
"When it’s all said and done, I think you will be talking about two of the top 10. ... You know what the similarity is? They’re both brilliant and they’re both team guys."
Asked whether he'd want Kobe or LeBron to take the last shot in a game for him, Krzyzewski said, "I’d want LeBron to dribble it and hit Kobe, which is what happened in the Olympics. And we won."
Posted on: June 5, 2009 2:23 pm
LOS ANGELES -- When Chris Bosh told the Toronto media that he has no plans to sign a contract extension this summer, the next logical question was: What about the other two musketeers?
In addition to LeBron James, the undisputed top potential free agent in the summer of 2010, Bosh and Dwyane Wade both signed three-year extensions in 2006 for the same reason: All three of them wanted the flexibilty to opt out in 2010 and score a maximum contract before the NBA's new labor agreement kicks in.
The only way their respective teams can avoid that calamity would be to persuade the players to sign contract extensions this summer. Henry Thomas, who represents both Bosh and Wade, told CBSSports.com in a phone interview Friday that Bosh's situation has no bearing on Wade's decision.
"[Wade] has the same contract, but they’re separate situations," Thomas said. "There’ll be a lot of things to evaluate for both of their respective situations. We’ll do it, and I’ll do it, independently."
Bosh's comments came Thursday at an event in Toronto where he was asked about his plans for the summer. Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo has made it known that his top priority this offseason is to sign Bosh to an extension, which would forestall his plans to opt out of his current contract next summer.
Wade has not committed either way to the idea of signing an extension this summer and has chosen his words carefully in discussing his future, saying that his plan all along was to give himself flexibility in the next two summers. Thomas said that unlike Wade, Bosh was ready to disclose his plans not to sign an extension because there has been more media speculation about his future than about Wade's.
"We did this contract in this way for a reason, and that reason was in part to have flexibility at the time that he is scheduled to have flexibility," Thomas said. "We'll see how it unfolds."
Posted on: June 4, 2009 9:54 pm
Edited on: June 4, 2009 10:11 pm
LOS ANGELES – About an hour before the start of the NBA Finals, the stamp on what he called a "season for the ages," David Stern offered his most dire prediction yet for what the recession will do to the NBA.