Tag Archives: Lebron James

IS TRISTAN THOMPSON TRYING TO GET OUT OF CLEVELAND?

By any objective statistical or mathematical measure, Tristan Thompson is being unreasonable. The restricted free agent, entering his fifth year in the Association, is reportedly seeking north of Thompson$90 million to return to Cleveland, the only NBA home he’s known to this point in his career. Thompson’s sky-high salary demands are the reason he remains as perhaps the highest-profile free agent left on the market.

Having already signed starting power forward Kevin Love to a monster deal that extends through the 2019-20 season, it would be understandable if the Cavs decided they did not want to spend that kind of cash on Love’s backup. However, by even entertaining Thompson’s position, the Cavs have shown that they are committed to trying to bring him back. This commitment is undoubtedly motivated by Thompson’s inspired play during the Cavs’ run to the finals, lingering questions about Love’s health and fit with the team, Thompson’s unique skill-set, specifically his status as the game’s foremost offensive rebounder and LeBron’s insistence on the importance of keeping Thompson in the fold.

While the Cavs are committed to Thompson, there may be reason to question whether his Lebronoutlandish salary demands may be motivated by his desire to play somewhere else. The opportunity to play with a transcendent talent like Lebron and compete for a title every year is nothing to walk away from lightly, but when we look at where Thompson currently fits on the Cavs’ roster, and his likely standing in the years to come, we begin to see some method to Thompson’s salary-demand madness.

The Cavs picked Thompson with the 4th overall pick in the 2011 draft. After a solid rookie campaign, he came into his own during his sophomore season, starting every game and averaging over 31 minutes per contest. Thompson also started all 82 games in his third year, and slightly increased his playing time. Over his second and third seasons, Thompson averaged nearly 12 points per game and over 9 rebounds, turning himself into a solid, if unspectacular, post player.

Things changed dramatically for the Cavs, and for Thompson personally, last off-season. With the addition of Lebron and, more importantly for Thompson’s fortunes, Kevin Love, Thompson saw a significant fall in his importance to the team. He went from starting all 82 games to only 15, and his Loveminutes fell by five per game. Along with his minutes, Thompson’s scoring and rebounding also fell, as did his shot attempts, dropping from 9.3 per game to a mere 6.0.

Thompson has never complained publicly about his role on the team, but with Kevin Love signing a massive, five-year deal, Thompson would be right to be concerned about the direction his career will take if he remains in Cleveland. Love will be the starting power forward in Cleveland as long as he remains a Cav. Because neither Thompson nor Love can defend elite level centres (or elite-level anythings in Love’s case) for long stretches, Thompson is unlikely to play much alongside Love. This means that Thompson’s reduced minutes and role are likely to persist as long as he remains a Cav – and potentially get worse if Love can stay healthy.

Considering that Thompson is already 24 years of age, a long-term deal in Cleveland would mean that he would be confined to the Cavs’ bench for some of what should be the most productive years of his career. This would be a hard pill to swallow for a player that clearly sees himself as a legitimate NBA starter. It would also mean that, as Thompson hits his late twenties and potentially his best and last chance at a big pay-day, he will be best known as Kevin Love’s backup and not inTristan a position to command anywhere near the kind of money he might have been able to get as a 7 or 8 year starter. For that reason, from an individual standpoint, it’s almost a no-brainer for Thompson to get himself out of Cleveland just as fast as he can.

If Thompson does not sign a long-term deal with the Cavs’ this off-season, he is likely to end up playing on a one year qualifying offer next year before becoming a restricted free agent in the 2016 off-season. While it would cost him some money up front, this may be the best outcome of all for Thompson in the long-term. A one-year deal would keep him in Cleveland for 2015-2016, allowing him to quite possibly be a part of a championship team, which will only increase his value on the free agent market. Then, with the salary cap going through the roof in a year’s time, Thompson would likely command an even bigger deal than the one he’s reportedly seeking from Cleveland, and do so as a key part of a team – perhaps his hometown Raptors, still in need of a starting power forward – where a starting role and all the minutes he can handle are assured.

While Tristan Thompson may ultimately happily commit to Cleveland for the long-term, he should certainly do so with some trepidation regarding the impact of that decision on his career and future financial prospects. If he is going to go that route, and pass on being an unrestricted free agent in 2016, he is right to expect to be well compensated for giving up that opportunity.

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THE USA NEEDS TO RE-THINK THE PAN AM GAMES

The USA is currently playing in a major international basketball tournament. The Pan Am games are underway in Toronto, and the United States is one of eight teams competing for gold on the men’s side. Americans are used to having the most talented team, by far, 2004(2)in any international tournament. Anomalies such as the 2004 Olympics aside, they are also accustomed to winning.

USA Basketball has taken a different approach to the Pan Am games, routinely fielding inferior teams and failing to take home the gold medal that should be the birthright of the greatest basketball nation on the planet. The USA took home the bronze at the last Pan Am games in 2011, and finished fifth in 2007. In fact, it’s been 32 years since the USA took home the gold at the Pan Ams.

When we look at this year’s roster, we begin to develop an understanding of the reason for these Ron Bakerdisappointing finishes. This years’ team is made up mostly of college upperclassmen like Ronald Baker of Wichita State and Malcolm Brogdon of the University of Virginia, alongside a handful of NBA Journeymen such as Ryan Hollins and a couple of international players in Bobby Brown and Keith Langford.

The USA could be forgiven for not fielding an Olympic-calibre Dream Team for the Pan Am games. While a major tournament, it is not the Olympics or the World Cup. It is not even the biggest international tournament of the summer, with the Olympic-qualifier Tournament of the Americas set to tip-off on August 31st.

This does not mean that USA is justified in mailing this one in in the way that they are. First of all, America has a reputation to uphold. The 2004 Ryan HollinsOlympics were a major blow to the nation’s basketball identity. Failing to win gold in three consecutive Pan Am games should not be viewed as any less of a failing. While Steph Curry and Anthony Davis are unlikely to show up for a lower level tournament like the Pan Ams, the USA could certainly have fielded a better team than the one currently in Toronto, and should have done so for reasons of pride alone.

Secondly, the USA is missing out on a great opportunity to bring young players into the USA Basketball fold and gain valuable international basketball experience. None of the players on the Pan Am roster will ever play in the Olympics or World Cup – the two marquee international basketball events and the clear priorities for USA Basketball. The challenge faced by the USA in these tournaments is not a lack of talent – the USA could field five teams with enough talent to place 1-5 in any of those events.

2004The challenge faced by the USA in any international tournament is bringing together a group of superstars and getting them to play with sufficient cohesion to let their talent carry them through to a gold medal. As seen in 2004, this is not always an easy task. Moreover, the rest of the world is quickly catching up to the USA. Spain has fielded teams with multiple NBA all-stars for years. Canada now has the potential to produce a roster comprised entirely of NBA players. Other nations have routinely competed with much more talented American teams because of experience playing together and familiarity with the systems run by the national program.

By ignoring tournaments like the Pan Am games, the USA is foregoing the opportunity to build this kind of cohesion and familiarity. Instead of fielding a team of players that will likely never again don a USA uniform, the American team should be comprised of future potential dream teamers, players that would not make the 2016 Olympic team, but who might have a shot at the 2020 or 2024 Olympics. This is what teams such as Canada are doing, playing Kentucky-bound point guard Jamal Murray significant minutes at the age of 18. While Murray is unlikely to be a factor in the Olympics, he should be a fixture with the team over the next 10-15 years. By giving him an important role now, Murray builds international experience, becomes familiar with Team Canada’s systeArgentinams, and maybe most importantly, builds a relationship with and loyalty to the Canadian National Team.

The 2004 Olympic Team was headlined by Allen Iverson, Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwayne Wade, and was captained by Tim Duncan. The Argentinian squad that beat the Americans was talented, but with the possible exception of Manu Ginobili, had no one that would have come close to making the American Team. If that American team had played together in the 2003 Pan Am games, or in Olympic Qualifying or in the 2002 World Cup, the 2004 Olympics might have turned out much differently.

The Meddling Doctor Rivers

Doc Rivers is a good coach and, by all accounts, a decent human being, but he needs to learn to respect an agreement.DR

On July 3rd, DeAndre Jordan verbally committed to signing a four-year deal with the Dallas Mavericks. This was a major coup for the Mavs and a massive set-back for the Clippers – threatening to dislodge them from their spot as a perennial contender in the ultra-competitive western conference.

Some kind of drastic action was necessary, but what Doc and the Clips chose to do was all wrong.

Rather than respect the deal reached by DJ and the Mavs, the Clippers chose not to accept Jordan’s decision, and sought to undermine the agreement by taking advantage of the senseless moratorium on finalizing free agent deals and continuing to pursue DJ even after he had committed to the Mavs.

As we all know, the Clippers ultimately succeeded in this effort and, on July 8th, DJ backed out of the deal with the Mavs and committed to remaining in LA. Marc Cuban’s hurt feelings aside, thisCuban became a huge problem for the Mavs. When DJ committed, they presumably stopped chasing their second, third and fourth choice free agents. By the time they learned of DJ’s change of heart, those guys would have been snapped up by other teams. While the Mavs ultimately managed an upgrade at the point guard position by taking Deron Williams off the Nets’ hands, they are nowhere near the team they would have been with Jordan, and are likely to find themselves battling to make the playoffs this season.

Admittedly, we are told that Jordan initiated the renewed discussions with the Clippers and, of course, because of the moratorium, Jordan had the right to back out of his deal in Dallas. Nevertheless, the actions of Doc and the Clippers were entirely inappropriate.

Wizards v/s Clippers 03/12/11Upon being approached by Jordan, the Clippers should have told him that they were not prepared to speak to him as long as he had an outstanding verbal commitment to another team. Jordan could then have made the decision to tell the Mavs he has withdrawing his verbal commitment and would continue to speak with other clubs.

Shockingly, this is the second time in less than a year we have seen this kind of underhanded behaviour from Rivers. When Kendrick Perkins signed with the Cavs after being waived by Utah, Rivers reportedly continued to pursue Perkins even after he had committed to Cleveland, again seeking to undermine an agreement between another club and a player.

NBA teams like the Mavs and the Cavs need to know that, once they’ve made a deal with a player, Feb 26, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers center Kendrick Perkins (3) reacts in the second quarter against the Golden State Warriors at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sportsit will be respected, and that other clubs won’t try to steal committed players out from under them. The NBA, whether formally or informally, needs to censure Rivers for his  behaviour. Because of the formal moratorium, there isn’t much the NBA can do, unless it wants to change that rule (which it should). The rest of the league, however, can institute its own discipline, and if I was an NBA GM, it would be a long time before I was willing to have any kind of trade discussions with Doc or the Clippers.