Tag:LeBron James
Posted on: July 7, 2009 11:15 am
Edited on: July 7, 2009 1:25 pm

LeBron: 'Never mind 2010, I'm staying' (UPDATE)

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

Artest says he's signing with Lakers (UPDATE)

Shaq can have LeBron. Ron Artest says he'll take Kobe.

Artest, whose versatility and toughness have made him one of the most coveted and combustible players in the NBA, told CBSSports.com Thursday that he's signing with the Lakers.

"I'm definitely going to L.A. -- to sign, yeah," Artest said in a phone interview. "Lakers, Lakers, Lakers. I'm in L.A. right now."

Artest said he met with Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss Thursday and previously had spoken with Lakers coach Phil Jackson. He was en route to his financial manager's office, where he planned to huddle on the phone with his agent, David Bauman, to finalize details.

Artest's exuberance -- he spent the whole summer in L.A., including several appearances at Lakers home games during the NBA Finals -- got ahead of the process a bit. Other teams that made overtures for Artest -- including the Cavaliers -- have not yet been notified that Artest is signing with the Lakers. (Consider them notified.) Bauman has spoken with Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, and a person with knowledge of the negotiations told CBSSports.com that Artest agreed to a five-year deal for the full mid-level exception -- about $33 million. It's the same deal that Houston agreed to with Trevor Ariza, who swaps cities with Artest.

"I don't really care about the money," Artest said. "I'll play there for nothing. ... L.A. was very interested in me, and they got me."

UPDATE: Lakers spokesman John Black declined to comment on Artest's assertion, but another person with knowledge of the situation corroborated Artest's account that he will sign with L.A. pending the passing of the weeklong moratorium on player movement, which expires July 8.

Only 24 hours earlier, the buzz was focused on Artest joining LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal in Cleveland in what would've made a potent Big Three on the shores of Lake Erie. It would've been, well, eerie, too: Artest's internal combustion engine, combined with LeBron's exquisite dominance and Shaq's alpha-male, all-around Shaq-ness would've been something to see.

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.

The addition of Artest is a coup for the defending champion Lakers, who have faced the prospect of trying to retain their own free agents, Odom and Ariza, and have seen other contenders make major efforts to improve. Most notably, the Celtics dispatched their Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce, along with coach Doc Rivers and managing partner Wyc Grousbeck to Detroit on Thursday to offer free agent Rasheed Wallace a mid-level contract. Cleveland's acquisition of Shaq put the Lakers, Celtics, and Magic on notice that the Cavaliers were making a serious push for a title next season. The Cavs' pursuit of Wallace, Artest, and Ariza signaled that they weren't finished after the pre-draft trade for Shaq.

"I talked to Coach Phil, and I was happy to talk to him," Artest said. "Big fan of Coach Phil. My agent talked to Kupchak, and I met with Dr. Buss. I'm very, very excited."


Posted on: June 25, 2009 11:55 am

Shaq deal doesn't affect LeBron's extension

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

Suns agree to send Shaq to Cavs

Shaquille O'Neal is bringing his Shaqness and four championship rings to Cleveland, which hasn't won a pro sports championship in 45 years.

LeBron, no excuses anymore.

Finally ending a four-month flirtation on the eve of the NBA draft, the Phoenix Suns agreed Wednesday night to send O'Neal to the Cavaliers in exchange for Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic, the 46th pick, and cash considerations, a person familiar with the agreement confirmed to CBSSports.com. "Very much agreed to," is how the source described the talks, which have been on and off since the February trade deadline.

So before Kobe Bryant got finished celebrating his first championship without Shaq, LeBron James will begin the pursuit of his first championship with Shaq.

Get the puppet commercials ready. 


Posted on: June 14, 2009 3:53 pm

Shaq to Cavs: Give it some time

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

Coach K not ready to commit to Team USA

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

Agent: Wade situation different than Bosh

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."
Category: NBA
Posted on: June 4, 2009 9:54 pm
Edited on: June 4, 2009 10:11 pm

Stern pours cold water on 2010 free agents

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.

"Our revenues will likely be down some percentage, I can say maybe as much as 10 percent [next season]," Stern said in his annual pre-Finals media address. "But that's a small amount in the landscape here."

Stern has been discussing the economy's impact on the NBA business for months, but it was the first time he'd assigned a number to the projected percentage decline in revenue for next season. Perhaps he deliberately chose a high number, because he backtracked in a more intimate session with reporters afterward.

"It's funny, I say 10 percent, but of course I'm going to work as hard as I can to make it not 10 percent," Stern said. "If it's 5 percent or 7 percent or 3 percent, don't hold me to it." Asked how this doomsday estimate might affect collective bargaining negotiations that are scheduled to begin after the Finals, Stern said, "We're going to share numbers and then we'll both make our own judgments about what the impact of that will be. ... That's not, ‘The sky is falling,' because we really do believe that our business is actually quite robust."

Stern already has admitted that the salary cap – which is calculated each year based on the previous season's revenues – is going down slightly in 2009-10 based on this season's revenue. But Stern's worst-case projection of a 10 percent decline next season would cause the 2010-11 cap to be slashed significantly. That just so happens to be the Summer of LeBron, when several of the league's biggest stars will have a chance to become free agents.

So essentially what Stern did Thursday night was throw another variable into what is already a very tough decision for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh: Sign an extension this summer before the cap gets slaughtered, or wait?

Stern wouldn't hazard a guess as to the specific amount the '10-'11 cap would declined based on a 10 percent reduction in revenue next season. Instead, he summoned his resident cap expert, Joel Litvin, the president of league and basketball operations. Litvin considered my question for a few seconds and said, "It would have a significant impact."

"You know the lawyers," said Stern, a lawyer. "They put in some sort of complex formula that's hard for us laymen to understand."

As for how the salary cap falling off a cliff in 2010 would impact LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh when they hit the unrestricted market, Stern said, "I have no idea and it's not a concern to me." That's more of a question for their agents. But the fact that less money will be available in '10, coupled with the fact that a new collective bargaining agreement will take effect in '11-'12, makes the decision of whether to sign an extension this summer even more difficult. Those players now have two moving targets to consider: a declining cap under the current system, and an uncertain cap under a new system they know nothing about yet.

"There's a lot at stake and I'm optimistic," Stern said of the CBA talks that will begin this summer. "We have together developed a system that delivers somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 billion to our 450 employees. That's a pretty good system. To me, the issue is not so much how much can you reduce it. The issue is how can you continue delivering the bulk of it?"

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com