Posted on: September 26, 2010 7:14 pm

Nuggets exploring their options

There was renewed hope Sunday that a four-team trade sending Carmelo Anthony to the Nets was still alive, with the framework of the deal possibly expanding to include additional players and possibly another team, CBSSports.com has learned.

But a weekend of inertia continued to frustrate the three teams Denver hastily recruited to accelerate Anthony’s departure, with executives standing firm in their belief that the longer the delay, the stronger the chance that the precarious structure of the trade could fall apart.

Among New Jersey, Utah and Charlotte, sources say least concerned were the Nets, who understandably have “no deadline” to pull off the blockbuster, franchise-shaping deal. The problem is with the pieces volunteered by the Jazz and Bobcats, who’d benefit the least from the arrangement and want to avoid unnecessary distractions heading into training camp this week. Charlotte’s role in the existing deal would be to send Boris Diaw to Utah and receive Devin Harris from the Nets, while Utah would send Andre Kirilenko to the Nuggets, who’d get No. 3 pick Derrick Favors and two first-round picks from New Jersey. Quinton Ross also would go from New Jersey to Utah.

“No one wants to go to camp with drama,” said one executive not involved in the pursuit of Anthony, who ignited the sweepstakes by refusing to sign a three-year, $65 million extension while his high-powered agents, Leon Rose and William Wesley, pushed hard all summer for a trade.

Sources say the Nuggets have been taking full advantage of the holding pattern in talks to listen to offers from other teams – though executives with knowledge of the situation do not believe a better offer has presented itself. The Bulls and Clippers, two teams with attractive assets and a realistic chance of persuading Anthony to sign an extension with them, have not progressed beyond the packages they initially brought to Denver’s attention. Some signs Sunday pointed to the revival of talks between Denver and Philadelphia with Andre Iguodala going to the Nuggets, but there was no signal from Anthony’s camp that he’d softened in his opposition to bringing his talents to South Philly.

Another player the Nuggets have targeted as a viable asset to recover in an Anthony trade, Anderson Varejao, remains a long shot for the same reason; Anthony isn’t going to Cleveland, the city that superstar LeBron James fled in July as though the Cuyahoga River were on fire.

So on the second front, the Nuggets are trying to determine whether another player within the current framework of the deal or even a fifth team would be able to further sweeten the reward for parting with the organization’s best player in two decades. The Nets are said to have “exhausted” the options available to the Nuggets in the current structure of the trade, with one possibility having Harris going to Denver instead of Charlotte. What Nuggets officials are weighing there, according to an executive with knowledge of the talks, is whether Harris might have more value as a trade chip than Kirilenko – an indication that Denver would view itself as being in full-blown cost-cutting and rebuilding mode without Anthony in the fold. Kirilenko, with a $17.8 million expiring contract, would seem to have more value than Harris, who is owed $27 million over the next three years. The Nuggets have not asked the Bobcats for Gerald Wallace, according to one executive familiar with the negotiations.

With nothing happening to push the discussions any closer to completion or extinction, Anthony could very well still be a Nugget during media day Monday at the Pepsi Center, which brings the saga to its next critical turning point. Anthony’s presence around the team will give GM Masai Ujiri his first chance to sit down face-to-face with the superstar and hear directly from him on his level of comfort with the best offer the team has received to move him.

Coach George Karl, whose ability to influence Anthony’s position should not be underestimated, also will have a chance to be in the room. This way, Nuggets officials will be able to hear first-hand from Anthony where he stands on the direction of the organization and his comfort level with joining a New Jersey team that would still be one major piece away from championship contention after adding Anthony. To this point, the vast majority of communication with Denver officials has come from Anthony’s advisers with Creative Artists Agency – most notable Rose and Wesley, who staunchly favor a trade to pastures they argue are greener than in Denver.

What the Nuggets are hoping, at the risk of jeopardizing the best offer they may get, is that Anthony’s angst will subside once he’s back with the only team he’s known during his seven-year career. He may conclude that he wouldn’t be much better off somewhere else.
Posted on: September 21, 2010 3:13 pm
Edited on: September 21, 2010 3:28 pm

Preseason Primers: Cavaliers

The misnomer about LeBron James leaving Cleveland is that people thought fans in Northeast Ohio were mad at him for leaving. Wrong. They were mad at him for the way he left. So with the first post-LeBron training camp around the corner, the Cavs’ brass are hoping the fan base is as realistic and patient as they will be as they recover from the Decision and all that it wrought. Internally, the Cavs have moved on. They have a new coach with rebuilding experience (Byron Scott) and a new front-office team with a lot of promise and assets at their disposal (GM Chris Grant and VP of basketball ops David Griffin).

Personnel-wise, no one inside the organization is putting any limits on what this team can do. The bad: They lost LeBron, and simply won’t recover in the short term. The good: They still believe they have the defensive foundation that Mike Brown built, along with enough shooters (Anthony Parker, Mo Williams, Daniel Gibson), former All-Stars (Antawn Jamison) and defensive dynamos (Varejao) to be competitive until the opportunity to pounce on a major personnel upgrade presents itself. Until then, here’s your preseason primer on the Cavs without you-know-who:

Training camp site: Independence, Ohio

Training camp starts: Sept. 28

Key additions: Ramon Sessions (trade), Ryan Hollins (trade), Joey Graham (free agent), Christian Eyenga (draft)

Key subtractions: Shaquille O’Neal (free agent), Delonte West (trade), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (free agent), Sebastian Telfair (trade), plus franchise identity, millions in ticket/merchandise sales, and the very soul of a tortured, doomed sports populace (i.e. some guy named ... oh, never mind).

Likely starting lineup: Williams, PG; Parker, SG; Joey Graham, SF; Jamison, PF; Anderson Varejao, C.

Player to watch: J.J. Hickson. He’s the guy the Cavs refused to give up in any trade scenario for Jamison or Amar’e Stoudemire. With you-know-who out of the picture, Hickson should benefit from increased touches and has a chance to be a bright spot as the otherwise dismal post-you-know-who era begins.

Chemistry check: Williams and Jamison both thought they were coming to Cleveland to win titles with you-know-who. Well, with you-know-who having taken his you-know-whats to South Beach, it will be interesting to watch how these veterans approach a daunting rebuilding project.

Camp battles: Graham, Jamario Moon and Jawad Williams will have a lively competition to replace you-know-who at small forward.

Biggest strength: If you take the glass-half-full approach, this is actually the ideal opportunity for Scott to re-establish a winning culture and instill his usual combination of defense, toughness, up-tempo offense and conditioning without getting pushback from cranky veterans who have grown tired of him. (That comes later.) Also, as difficult as this is for Cavs fans to swallow, the Cavs acquired some very useful assets in the sign-and-trade transaction that ultimately sent you-know-you to Miami. With multiple future first- and second-round picks, expiring contracts and a $14.5 million trade exception, the Cavs are positioned nicely when the right opportunity presents itself. They could’ve burned cap space this summer on average players as an emotional reaction to you-know-who’s departure. But Grant doesn’t – and won’t – operate that way. He will be unemotional and methodical, which is how Cavs fans should want him to be. The addition of Griffin, the former Suns executive, gives Cleveland a keen and connected personnel man to team with Grant; it has the makings of one of the finest front-office tandems in the league.

Glaring weakness: Who’s going to score, defend, perform chase-down blocks, sell tickets, toss talc, pose for idiotic pregame mock celebratory productions, star in hour-long reality TV shows stabbing his hometown in the back, and generally just save the world? Someday, someone besides you-know-who.

Posted on: July 2, 2010 6:26 pm
Edited on: July 2, 2010 11:52 pm

Wade, Bulls hold second meeting (UPDATE)

The free-agent chase has taken a detour that could change everything. Dwyane Wade holding a second meeting with Bulls officials Friday night shook up a frenzied recruiting process that promises to reach a dizzying crescendo this weekend.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel first reported the meeting , an unscheduled gathering between the Heat superstar and a team that had been all but discounted for his services. Fellow free agent Chris Bosh and Wade met separately with the Bulls in Chicago, and speculation immediately focused on the Bulls' apparent efforts to offer what previously only the Heat could: the opportunity for the superstar trinity of free agents -- LeBron James, Wade and Chris Bosh -- to play together.

In order to facilitate that, the Bulls would have to acquire Bosh in a sign-and-trade from Toronto, likely giving up Luol Deng or Joakim Noah in the process. Short of that, the Bulls are only one minor move -- dumping James Johnson and his $1.8 million contract on a team with cap space to absorb it -- from offering LeBron and Wade (or some other two-man combo) the chance to pair up in Chicago and chase down championships in the shadow of Michael Jordan.

The possibilities of a Wade-Bosh or LeBron-Bosh pairing with the Bulls has far-reaching implications -- not the least of which would be leaving the Heat, which once seemed poised to land all three, empty-handed. As Wade left the meeting Friday night, he told reporters there, "Things are getting very interesting."

And out of control, too.

One powerful agent, speaking to CBSSports.com on condition of anonymity Friday night, ridiculed the LeBron-Wade-Bosh recruiting mania as "a bunch of egomaniacs starved for attention who think the world revolves them. They can't get enough of themselves." The agent, who is involved in numerous free-agent and trade scenarios, said of a LeBron-Wade pairing, "I don't see that happening." The most likely outcome, the agent said, was for Bosh to land in Chicago by himself -- forming an impressive trio with Derrick Rose, Noah and Deng -- while Wade re-signed in Miami and James in Cleveland. Boring, but more realistic, the agent said.

The stunning turn of events came after Wade and Bosh met separately with the Knicks in Chicago. Wade met with Bulls officials at the United Center for the first time Thursday. Although Wade is a Chicago native, he has consistently said he wants to stay in Miami and attract two marquee free agents to play with him there. Heat officials, led by Pat Riley and his gleaming championship rings, met with James in Cleveland Friday.

As if this wasn't enough of a circus already, the Cavaliers have organized a rally for Saturday during which fans will line the streets outside James' marketing company's office building in a show of support for him to stay with the Cavs.

Posted on: June 30, 2010 9:26 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2010 9:53 pm

Cavs choose Byron Scott (UPDATE)

The Cavaliers are in deep discussions with Byron Scott to be their next head coach, two people familiar with the matter confirmed to CBSSports.com. Barring any unexpected hitches in negotiation, the two-time Finals coach will take over for Mike Brown, who was fired after the Cavs' premature playoff exit.

Scott, the former coach of the Nets and Hornets, and Lakers assistant Brian Shaw went down to the wire as the two finalists to replace Brown. Shaw was "extremely impressive" in his interview, a person involved in the process said, but Scott's experience, defensive system and track record of coaching in two Finals were the deciding factors for the Cavs.

Cavs GM Chris Grant, owner Dan Gilbert and the basketball staff met late into Tuesday night after completing Shaw's interview and decided t to move forward with Scott -- no knock on Shaw, but rather a nod to the fact that Scott's resume had all the boxes checked that Cleveland was looking for, according to a person familiar with the decision. Still unsure whether free-agent LeBron James will be returning to the Cavs, the team was particularly impressed with Scott's history of coaching superstars to the cusp of a championship and also inheriting rebuilding teams and instilling them with a winning culture. While sources said management did not ask for James' approval on the hire, the choice of an established coach with a winning pedigree and a strong emphasis on defense will not hurt Cleveland's efforts to retain James amid dogged pursuit from the Bulls, Heat, Knicks, Nets and (on the periphery of the madness) the Clippers.

Shaw, awaiting Phil Jackson's decision on whether to retire or return to pursue another championship in L.A. next season, in fact came away from the interview process convinced that the Cavs will be able to keep LeBron, said Shaw's agent, Jerome Stanley.

"Just the passion that ownership has, the fact that they are committed to winning, and LeBron having displayed loyalty to them, he felt they'd be able to keep him," Stanley said. "That's just his opinion."

Stanley also said Shaw was uncomfortable with the speed at which the Cavs wanted to move in completing the hire. It is crunch time, with free agency kicking off at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, but the Cavs have moved as deliberately as any contending team in memory engaged in a coaching search.

"They would've wanted a decision very fast, and Brian felt it just wasn't going to fit his timing," Stanley said.

Shaw and the rest of Jackson's staff do not have contracts for next season as they await Jackson's decision. A person with strong ties to Jackson told CBSSports.com Wednesday that the 11-time championship coach had yet to make a decision on whether to coach next season. But there have been strong indications over the past few days that Jackson, 64, will not be faced with any health reasons that preclude him from coaching. And if that is what Jackson decides to do, the person close to him said it is believed that the contractual details will be worked out.

Posted on: June 29, 2010 5:28 pm

Split in Team LeBron

The New York Times posted a fascinating story Tuesday in which Maverick Carter, CEO of LeBron James' marketing company, said adviser William Wesley will not be participating in the superstar's free-agent visits.

The quote is harsh.

“All the Wes rumors are untrue and he will not be at the meetings,” Carter said. “Wes has nothing to do with where he goes.”

All together now: Ouch.

This fits with a comment from an influential figure within the league who told me recently that Wesley's behind-the-scenes maneuvering with John Calipari had infuriated some in LeBron's camp. As a result, the power broker known as World Wide Wes had become "as out of the loop as out of the loop can be" when it comes to LeBron's free agency, the person said.

Does Wesley have to be in the room when James, Carter and others from the Akron wing of LeBron Inc. to influence the process? Not necessarily. As Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports pointed out, agent Leon Rose and Wesley are partners. If Rose is in the room -- and he will be -- then by definition Wesley is in the room.

But it's interesting that Wesley, whom many assumed would have the power to steer LeBron wherever he wanted him to go, has had his power diminished just days before LeBron's monumental decision. Just another thread in the fabric of what has become a high-stakes game of poker over where LeBron winds up.

Posted on: June 25, 2010 7:55 pm

No free-agency tour for LeBron

Suddenly chastened by criticism he has received for making the NBA's spring and summer all about him, LeBron James has informed teams that he is not planning to participate in an elaborate free agency tour come July 1, a person familiar with the decision confirmed to CBSSports.com Friday.

So much for a lavish recruiting dinner in a Manhattan penthouse or a tour of the best clubs South Beach has to offer. Not going to happen, said the person with knowledge of James' plans.

Maverick Carter, James' business manager, told ESPN The Magazine that teams were informed of James' plans Wednesday and that the free agent-to-be will meet with suitors at a neutral site.

The decision by James may help cleanse his battered image after speculation over his future singlehandedly hijacked the NBA postseason and draft. It also could be viewed as a blow to teams in big, glitzy markets that have been planning for months to roll out the red carpet for one of the most sought-after -- and attainable -- free agents in NBA history. The Knicks, for example, have been quietly contacting world renowned chefs in Manhattan to secure their services for a possible free-agent visit by James and other free agents. Titans of business, film, theater, and fashion also were at the ready to help the Knicks lure James to New York -- although a person with knowledge of the Knicks' free-agency prep work downplayed a published report this week of a penthouse extravaganza in James' honor in Manhattan on July 1.

But contrary to prevailing opinion, the Knicks were not planning to rely entirely on the allure of New York and its off-the-court cachet to lure James. Though James has stated that he wants to be a world-wide sports icon and billionaire, teams hoping to win him over during the free-agent negotiating period that begins July 1 have understood all along that basketball has to come first. Teams with the cap space and market size to attract James -- the Knicks, Bulls, Heat, Nets and possibly Clippers -- have "prepared for every contingency," according to a high-level management source familiar with plans to recruit James.

On the other hand, Knicks president Donnie Walsh has the answer to one of the key questions he has been contemplating about this unprecedented free-agent summer. And while Walsh privately is telling people he doesn't see this as a deal-breaker, he was known to be interested in seeing which free agents would want to give the Knicks a chance to show them what New York -- as a city and market -- could do for them. The message from James with just days to go before the recruiting process begins is perfectly clear. There may well be a LeBron free agency tour, but it'll be on his terms.


Posted on: June 23, 2010 5:03 pm

Jackson's decision has far-reaching implications

The big news about 30 hours before the NBA draft didn’t involve John Wall, Evan Turner or DeMarcus Cousins. It revolved around a 64-year-old coach with artificial hips and a finger on the pulse on the coaching and free agency landscape – a fellow named Phil Jackson.

One of the biggest dominoes of the offseason didn’t exactly tumble Wednesday, but it’s teetering – toward retirement.

“I’m leaning towards retiring but I have not made up my mind,” Jackson told reporters as the back-to-back champion Lakers conducted their season-ending exit interviews.

Big news. Or is it? The Zen Master carefully worded the most definitive statement yet about his future, leaving the door open to returning for a chance at a three-peat. Given that Jackson conceded during the NBA Finals that he’s been told a significant pay cut would be required if he returned to the Lakers next season, this could be Phil’s way of forcing Dr. Jerry Buss’ hand.

It also could be a graceful way for the 11-time champion to exit stage left, turning the reins over to former Laker Byron Scott – whose candidacy for the Cavs’ coaching job is officially on hold while Jackson makes his final decision.

Scott is serious about the Cleveland job, and the Cavs are serious about him. But everyone involved understands that Scott’s dream job is coaching the Lakers. While Kobe Bryant has been adamant that he wants Jackson back, he’d be amenable to Scott taking over if that’s the way it had to be.

In some ways, it would be the perfect way for Scott to validate his coaching resume – taking over a team that is loaded with talent and poised to win at least one more championship while Bryant is still in his prime. One of the knocks on Scott is that he wears out his welcome in the locker room after two or three years, and that’s about all this Lakers dynasty has left, anyway.

Jackson has said there’s a 90 percent chance that he’s either coaching the Lakers next season or not coaching at all. Depending on your skill level with mathematics, that means there’s a 10 percent chance he’s coaching somewhere else. To that point, the Clippers and even the Cavs will continue to hold out hope that they could lure Jackson. Both presumably would offer a multi-year deal, whereas Jackson’s tenure with the Lakers has been made up of a series of one-year deals in recent years. But it’s difficult to believe that Buss would stand idly by and watch Jackson jilt Bryant for LeBron James. Could you ever imagine Jackson doing that to Michael Jordan in his prime? Also, at this point Jackson has earned the right to be taken at his word that health and the grind of the NBA season – 114 games for the Lakers this past season from preseason to Game 7 of the Finals – are the only factors he’s considering.

So we wait for Phil to make his next move, which will affect a lot of other moves across the basketball landscape.
Posted on: June 15, 2010 8:00 pm

Cavs stuck in LeBron limbo

LOS ANGELES -- With Tom Izzo's decision Tuesday to stay at Michigan State, the Cavaliers are right back where they've been since their stunning playoff loss to the Celtics: in LeBron limbo.

Izzo couldn't come to terms with leaving East Lansing without knowing if he'd be coaching LeBron James or not -- even if it was for $6 million a year. LeBron has strategically removed himself from the Cavs' coaching search, and in fact hasn't said a word publicly about the organizational demolition that the loss to Boston fueled. Unless you count the Larry King love fest on CNN, James hasn't publicly addressed the firing of coach Mike Brown or the unceremonious departure of general manager Danny Ferry.

Word is that while he didn't reject the notion of Izzo coaching the Cavs, he didn't entirely endorse it, either. In any event, LeBron apparently wouldn't even speak with Izzo about his intentions when it comes to his impending free agency. In fact, one person who has been in contact with the Cavs' front office said LeBron has been incommunicado with team officials, as well.

So once again, the Cavs are held hostage by LeBron. They can't move forward with any serious offseason plans -- franchise-shaping plans -- until they know whether LBJ is staying or going. Cavs GM Chris Grant has the least enviable job in the NBA, other than the media relations director of LeBron's next team, whatever that might be. (I'll expand on that another time, but for now, to say that LeBron is high maintenance is like saying Shakira has been known to slightly gyrate her hips from time to time.)

Two NBA team executives told CBSSports.com Tuesday that the Cavs were busily proceeding with their coaching search even before Izzo's decision became public, with much of the focus centering on former Hornets coach Byron Scott. One of those people said the Cavs were screening numerous candidates. But Scott, or any other candidate, would want the same information Izzo was unable to glean about LeBron's future. And Scott's situation also will be affected by how the Finals end for the Lakers. If Phil Jackson decides to step down, Scott is the most plausible candidate waiting in the wings to replace him.

Those executives also said Grant was performing his due diligence on the trade front, asking several teams about acquiring draft picks. The Cavs have no picks in the 2010 draft, having traded them to Washington (first round) and Phoenix (second round). But even in that pursuit, the executives said Grant's hands are tied because he can't possibly know what kind of trades to make if he doesn't know whether LeBron will be on the team. Grant is trying to proceed as though LeBron will stay, but as Izzo's situation proved, that's an exceedingly difficult tightrope to walk.


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