NBA OFF SEASON NEWS, WADE, LEBRON, KOBE, KNICKS & FREE AGENTS

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Future Hall of Fame guard Dwyane Wade made it clear a few weeks ago that if he suits up for the 2018-19 season, he’ll only do so with the Miami Heat. Wade is an unrestricted free agent this summer and has yet to commit to Miami, but it seems he will soon talk with team president Pat Riley about what his intentions are.

Riley met with Miami-area media today at the groundbreaking for the Miami Heat Sports Medicine Center in Coral Gables. While he was there, he said he plans to meet with Wade soon. Here’s more from Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

“We’ve been in constant communication with Leon Rose, his attorney. Now that I’m back, in town, and we’re really ramping up for training camp, I know Dwyane’s in California right now with the marketing team, getting ready for the season, so I’ll have a conversation with him somewhere shortly.

“I texted him after he got his long-term deal with [Chinese apparel company] Li Ning. We want him back. He and Udonis, we want ’em back, but we’re giving ’em space. We know our young guys and we need to anchor our young team with a veteran presence of the both of them.”

If the Heat were to re-sign Wade, their salary cap position would mean they could offer him either the $5.3 million taxpayer mid-level exception and the $2.4 million veteran’s minimum. Winderman notes that the difference between the options is significant, with signing Wade to the the $5.3 million taxpayer mid-level exception resulting in an actual cash outlay of $14.2 million in 2018-19. That is because, Winderman writes, the Heat would move into the second level of the tax multiplier.

A smaller contract for Wade, however, would allow the Heat to get out of the tax by the end of next season — which is when the luxury tax is formally calculated.

When asked if the Heat were willing to offer Wade the mid-level, tax-payer exception to get Wade to re-sign, Riley said: “I don’t think this is about negotiating a mid-level or dollars. It’s about getting Dwyane back. It’s not really about the tax right now, even though we have a tax situation.

“We’ll work our way around that. We have 14 months or 12 months to deal with the situation. We just want to get started … get back on the floor. It’s been five months [since Miami’s season ended] … get to training camp, play our preseason games and start the season. We want Dwyane to be a part of that. All the business aspects of the tax and the cap, that’s all part of the equation. Just get the team together.” CONTINUE READING, by  NBA Twitter and media reports

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For the first time since 2000-01, the San Antonio Spurs will start their season without guard Tony Parker on the roster. The six-time All-Star and former Finals MVP moved on from the only NBA city he had known this summer, joining the Charlotte Hornets as a free agent. There seemed to be no hard feelings on either side over that parting and, once his career is over, Parker plans to return to San Antonio at least one last time.

In an interview with the Chinese web site HUPU, Parker made it clear he plans to retire with the Spurs when his playing days are through. Jeff Garcia of News4SA.com has more: CONTINUE READING, by NBA media Reports

Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, once rivals, now are united as legends of Lakers lore. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

If Oscars and Emmys ever supersede NBA titles and MVP trophies when it comes to defining the legacies of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, mark that as the moment when the sports world began to spin backward on its axis.

Still, you can’t overlook what SpringHill Entertainment has sprung on Hollywood over the last few weeks.

The influential media company primarily owned by James and partner Maverick Carter, with millions of infused help by Warner Brothers, put the newest Laker into an elite orbit of Tinseltown titillation that some Black Mamba worshipers may see as another threat to Bryant’s status.

In deals reached with Showtime, HBO and CBS adding to what he’s already done with Netflix, YouTube and other media platforms — all while opening a new school in Akron, Ohio — James clearly has taken the position of superhero using his powers for the greater good.

At the Television Critics Assn. gathering in Pasadena last week, where new shows are trumpeted for all the social media they can generate, one that captured considerable buzz was the James-infused, three-part documentary series called “Shut Up and Dribble” for Showtime — the premium cable channel, not what might sound like a Lakers-based network that reruns games from the 1980s.

The series, whose title flips a mean-spirited phrase by conservative pundit Laura Ingraham targeting James and other NBA players, will focus on “the changing role of athletes in our fraught cultural and political environment,” according to the press release.

This comes in concert with a talk show James launched a couple of years ago at Turner’s Bleacher Report and has sold to HBO called “The Shop.” James takes us to a barber shop in West Hollywood and brings together a smart, eclectic collection of celebrities and athletes to cut up the day’s headlines. As James described it to the Hollywood Reporter, this will focus on “the essence of conversation … which these days seems like a lost art.” Both shows come out later this year.

Think of how actors, producers and directors angle for the best courtside seats at a Lakers game so they can be seen. James has just raised the bar on that. With his recently signed four-year, $153.3-million free-agent deal, he can wink across the court to his new business partners and set up pitch meetings during timeouts.

Stars on the basketball court, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant might be poised for stardom off of it.
Stars on the basketball court, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant might be poised for stardom off of it. (Robert Duyos / Sun Sentinel)

 

Bryant might be around courtside working his own deals. He got the media bug when he became the focus of two major documentaries. In 2009, he gave Spike Lee and some 30 cameramen “unprecedented access” to a day in his life so they could see what makes him a superior competitor in “Kobe Doin’ Work.”

In 2015 came “Kobe Byant’s Muse” for Showtime, a year before he retired after 20 seasons with the Lakers. Bryant has since aligned himself with entrepreneur Jeff Stibel, created his own Granity Studios, and become partners in Derek Jeter’s Players’ Tribune project. From that, a first-person ode to the game called “Dear Basketball” won an Academy Award for animated short film — and an Emmy for outstanding post-produced graphic design.

During last season’s NBA playoffs, Bryant also was visible on ABC/ESPN with his “Detail” project, for which he analyzed game film and explained why things did or didn’t work on the court. He said it came from his experience of watching the game “at the smallest level — the entire chess board.”

On the chess board of a giant media empire game, Bryant and James surely are not pawns. But on each side there is only one king.

For “King James,” his media narrative is the noble pursuit of bringing the world together. Meanwhile, Bryant mines internal material for his projects.

What comes off better?

Dan Durbin, director of the USC Annenberg Institute of Sports, Media & Society, thinks both stars’ work carries importance.

“LeBron faces a much more politically charged public environment than Kobe and has responded in kind,” Durbin said.

“LeBron’s brand is meant to transcend the game; Kobe’s was meant to embody the game. LeBron’s brand benefits from his position as an ambassador for the game; Kobe’s brand benefited most by keeping focused on his intense commitment to the game and away from other subjects.”

Those “other” things would include Bryant’s time in Colorado contesting a 2003 sexual assault case. There’s also a $100,000 fine the NBA pinned on him in 2011 for using a homophobic slur against a referee. James has steered clear of such potholes, and avoids confrontations on social media even when baited by President Trump.

“Kobe was indeed criticized for his lack of political and social media engagement — the ‘Black Mamba’ brand was supposed to help alleviate some of that pressure — just as LeBron has been criticized, generally by a completely different crowd, for being too politically involved,” Durbin said. “In many ways, an athlete can’t win.”

By one scoreboard, Bryant has more NBA titles (5-3), All-Star selections (18-14) and scoring championships (2-1). James has more regular season MVPs (4-1), Finals MVPs (3-2) and All-NBA first-team selections (12-11).

Durbin hopes Lakers loyalists eventually realize that neither James nor Bryant, no matter what their media motives might be, is trying to undercut the other’s fame or foundation.

“The Los Angeles fans who fear LeBron will displace Kobe aren’t really thinking clearly,” Durbin said. “Kobe could not replace the best team leader of all time in Magic Johnson, or the best pure scorer of all time in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, or the most outrageously dominant individual player of all time in Wilt Chamberlain.

“LeBron will not replace Kobe, nor does he need to. LeBron brings an even bigger global brand to the Lakers than Kobe ever developed.”

One last bit of Hollywood gossip: James is intent on remaking the 1996 animated classic “Space Jam” and supposedly taking over the role Michael Jordan had opposite Bugs Bunny.

Maybe Bryant steps in to detail why that ends up a no-win remake situation. By 

Curt Miller, of the W.N.B.A.’s Connecticut Sun, is believed to be the first openly gay male coach of a professional team in the United States.CreditCreditMonica Jorge for The New York Times

During the W.N.B.A. All-Star break last month, Curt Miller, the Connecticut Sun’s coach and general manager, went home to Bloomington, Ind., excited to be just a parent again.

For 72 hours, Miller and Brian Seymour, 23, one of the twin brothers for whom he has been a legal guardian for 18 years, were nearly inseparable.

“What was most enjoyable was being able to do dad things for him and feel good about it,” said Miller, 49, who was the W.N.B.A’s coach and executive of the year in 2017.

He cleaned the family cars, took them for oil changes, filled their gas tanks and renewed their registrations.

When Brian, a journalism major, was attending class at Indiana University during the day, Miller said he would spend “five or six hours pulling weeds, cleaning up the flower beds, trimming hedges — doing everything in the yard that had been neglected to make sure the neighbors didn’t hate us.” He added, “I even took our three dogs to get groomed.”

That Sunday, Brian took Miller back to the airport. In his third season with the Sun, Miller, believed to be the first openly gay male coach of a professional sports team in the United States, refocused on taking his team to the playoffs for a second consecutive season. CONTINUE READING, by John Altavilla, NY Times

David Fizdale Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

We should all be having what David Fizdale is having.

In a supremely optimistic TV interview from a Manhattan kids clinic Wednesday, the new Knicks coach said he “clicked” with Kristaps Porzingis, calling him “excited” about the team’s direction, adding all Knicks fans should be excited about what is growing at the Garden.

“It’s already happening,” Fizdale said about the franchise’s rebirth in the interview with Channel 4’s Bruce Beck. “Kristaps will come back healthy. He was already having a big-time season last year when he got knocked down. We had an awesome draft with Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Allonzo Trier — our two-way player. Scott [Perry] and these guys are sticking to an awesome plan, bringing in guys maybe that didn’t work out at a place before but are high draft picks. [With] good player development, good culture, they can turn into something they were expected to be. We’re doing it the right way.” CONTINUE READING, by Marc Berman, NY Post

We’ve spent the last month and a half evaluating the best and the worst of this year’s free agent deals, but there’s another series of big-money contracts going into effect this season that have been somewhat overlooked during that time.

Eight players signed contract extensions in 2017 that will begin in 2018/19, as our 2017 extension tracker shows. Those players are as follows:

All of these extensions were completed in September, October, or November of 2017, meaning they’re less than a year old. Nonetheless, it’s fascinating to consider how differently many of them look now, as opposed to when they signed.

Powell, for instance, took a step backward last year for the Raptors, posting new career lows in PPG (5.5), FG% (.401), and 3PT% (.285), among other categories. Now, a signing that initially looked like a savvy move to lock up a promising young wing seems like it could become an albatross.

On the other hand, Richardson – who signed the same deal as Powell – improved his stock in 2017/18, starting 81 games for the Heat and averaging 12.9 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 2.9 APG with a .451/.378/.845 shooting line. Richardson looks like a key piece in Miami going forward, and the team looks smart for having extended him early.

The pair of Sixers extensions appear more team-friendly now than they did 10 months ago too. Embiid is coming off a monster season in which he was able to stay on the court for most of the year, and his deal includes some injury protection if the 76ers need it. As for Covington, his extension was technically worth $60MM because he was able to renegotiate a big raise on his 2017/18 salary. Now that the new years are taking effect though, the $46.9MM price tag for the next four seasons looks even more manageable.

What do you think? Which of the 2017 contract extensions taking effect this season do you think is the most team-friendly deal of the bunch? By Luke Adams, Hoops Rumors

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Jackie MacMullan’s five-part series on mental health in the NBA. But I can’t recommend enough you read each piece in its entirety. This is excellent and important journalism.

Here are links to all five articles at ESPN:

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