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NBA AM: Is It Time For Kevin Love?

With the major players off the Free Agent board is a Kevin Love deal coming?… The fluidity of news in the 24-hour news cycle.

Steve Kyler



Is Love Next?:  As the free agent dominoes begin to fall around the NBA, there is a sense that the next big fish may already be under contract in Minnesota’s Kevin Love. Love has two more seasons left on his deal with the Wolves, which includes a player option he is expected to decline, making him a potential free agent next July and a prime trade target.

Since LeBron James’ announced return to Cleveland, there have been rampant rumors that the Cavaliers could be queuing up a deal to land Love next.

While the Cavs are very much interested in obtaining Love, there continues to be debate about whether the parts the Cavs can offer are enticing enough to get the Timberwolves off the dime. The Wolves’ stance on moving Love has been that a deal would have to return veteran players that would get the Wolves into the playoffs this year. The problem for Cleveland is they have a mountain of young guys, but not that one veteran talent that makes a deal likely.

The Cavalier talks have centered around top overall pick Andrew Wiggins and while there have been differing reports on whether Cleveland would include him, there continues to be a sense that Wiggins would only be included if Love agreed to opt-in to the final year of his current contract and lock him into Cleveland for at least two seasons.

Love’s option is also what is believed to be blocking a possible deal with the Golden State Warriors. Around the 2014 NBA Draft there were reports of a possible deal that sources close to the situation said was basically done. The hang up however was Golden State would have sent out a lot of assets, including sharp shooter Klay Thompson.

The problem with the deal for the Warriors wasn’t so much about Thompson, although sources say they value him tremendously and would rather not trade him. The problem for the Warriors was sending out a ton of assets with only the current season likely on Love’s deal.

Much like the Cavs, the Warriors would be far more willing to give up a prime asset like Thompson if they had the assurances of a new deal or better yet Love exercising his option year.

The threat of Love being able to walk away in 12 months as an unrestricted free agent is what is killing the inclusion of the players that might actually get a deal done.

League sources say there is more than enough interest from both the Warriors and the Cavs to get a deal done, but for either to part with the big chips the Wolves would require they want Love to opt-in, something sources near both situations say still remains a road block.

During this week’s Summer League in Las Vegas, there was a sense among NBA executives that Love would not agree to opt-in for anyone and that he wants to get to free agency and lock in a five-year deal. Given Love’s injury history and escalations in the salary cap, the belief is that Love wants to get his Carmelo Anthony sized payday, even if that is simply re-signing with the club that has his rights at the end of the season.

The problem with that scenario is it would be hard for a serious contending team to risk giving up huge assets for Love without assurances he’d be on the team beyond this season.

The Cavs and Warriors are very much at the table on Love, the question becomes who will blink first and pull the trigger?

The Fluidity of News:  If you follow me on Twitter you may have caught a tweet from me last Sunday responding to someone asking about LeBron re-turning to Cleveland. What is funny about my “zero” comment in the tweet, is that after the Cavaliers met with James in Miami, they were far from convinced they had him. As much as everyone in the process hoped that James would consider them again, there was not a sense Sunday that the Cavs had him. In fact, on Sunday there was still a very real belief that James was coming back to Miami.

The point here is not to try and put some revisionist history on what was clearly a big story. The point is that things change. As much as things seemed to be lining up for Cleveland, they really didn’t know what they had until James sealed the deal.

In the age of socially driven news and an unquenchable desire for details, the race to be first is often over shadowing the fact that decisions are not made quickly and that things in the NBA usually happen as a result of several dozen conversations.

If this “summer of change” has proven anything, it’s that things evolve. For days it was said that HEAT forward Chris Bosh was going to Houston if LeBron left Miami. That’s not what happened. For the first week of free agency there was a sense that Carmelo Anthony was only considering Chicago and the Rockets, yet in the end the Lakers got a long look before Anthony re-signed in New York.

These stories were not wrong. These stories were not fabrications. These stories were tracking in real-time the decision making process of free agency.

It would be great if we could live a world where news was reported after all the facts were clear, after all that’s what journalism should be about right?

However, in the race to be first a lot of journalistic standards have evolved. It used to be common place for reporters to have two unrelated sources on a story, that’s clearly no longer the case. It used to be that a source had to be hyper credible to be used by a major media outlet, that too is no longer the case.

Super reputable reporters have been baited into bogus rumors and trades in the race to be first in a world dominated by one or two news breakers.

The point here is to stress a few things about the news game, especially digitally. Things evolve. Great reporters will be wrong. The world is moving faster than most can keep pace with and while it would be great to never be wrong, that’s just not a realistic position when you live on the bleeding edge of information.

I can say that we here at Basketball Insiders want to be right every time. The only way that’s going to happen is to sit out the process, and frankly as much as I want us to be right, we also need to be in the mix to be valuable to you.

We are going to be wrong. That’s going to happen. That doesn’t mean we’re not talking, listening and trying to determine what’s really happening. That’s the nature of the 24-hour news beast we all seek to feed each day.

Things in the NBA are fluid. A “no” today could very well be a “yes” tomorrow, especially when it comes to trades and free agency.

So if you want to blast me on Twitter for being wrong, please do. But, also keep in mind the world changes pretty quickly and just because you are certain on a subject does not mean that’s how it really playing out.

More Twitter:  Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @TheRocketGuy, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @SusanBible @TommyBeer, @JabariDavisNBA , @NateDuncanNBA , @MokeHamilton , @JCameratoNBA and @YannisNBA.

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.


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PODCAST: Breaking Down The Western Conference Playoff Race

Basketball Insiders



Basketball Insiders Deputy Editor Jesse Blancarte and Writer James Blancarte break down the Western Conference playoff race and check in on the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers.

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NBA Daily: The Cleveland Cavaliers Need Tyronn Lue

The Cleveland Cavaliers have faced injury adversity and a roster shakeup, and now face uncertainty regarding coach Tyronn Lue’s health.

Buddy Grizzard



The most enduring image of Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue came moments after his team sealed the 2016 NBA Finals with a third consecutive win after trailing the Golden State Warriors 3-1. As the team celebrated its historic comeback and readied to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy, one camera focused on Lue, who sat on the bench with his face buried in his hands.

The image tells a thousand words about the pressure Lue was under as Cleveland teetered on the brink of elimination for three games. Rather than sharing the euphoria of his players, it seemed that Lue’s emotions centered around the massive weight that had been lifted from his shoulders. Almost two years later, it appears that burden has caught back up with Lue, whose leave of absence for health reasons complicates things for Cleveland with the playoffs just around the corner.

“It’s like losing one of your best players,” said Cavaliers forward LeBron James after Cleveland’s 124-117 win at home over the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday.

Kevin Love returned from a six-week injury absence to post 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists against the Bucks. James likened Lue’s absence to the burden of trying to replace Love’s output while he was unavailable.

“We’ve got to have guys step up, just like guys trying to step up in Kev’s absence,” said James. “We have to do the same as a collective group as long as Ty needs to get himself back healthy.”

There’s optimism that Lue could return before the playoffs, but there’s a great deal of uncertainty given the seriousness of his symptoms, which reportedly included coughing up blood. Lead assistant Larry Drew, a former head coach with the Bucks and Hawks, will handle head coaching responsibilities until Lue is ready to return.

Kyle Korver played under Drew in Atlanta and said he’s confident in his ability to fill in.

“We’d love to have Ty here and healthy,” said Korver after the Bucks win. “Coach Drew has done this for a long time as well. He coached me for a full year in Atlanta. We know he’s fully capable.”

Korver also doubted Drew would introduce any major stylistic changes.

“I think LD’s been Ty’s top assistant for a reason,” said Korver. “They really think a lot alike. They coach very similarly. We miss Ty, but I think the style of what we do is going to be very similar.”

While style and approach should remain unchanged, what could an extended absence for Lue mean for the Cavaliers? Lue cemented his legacy as a leader by keeping the Cavaliers together as they fought back from a 3-1 deficit to the Warriors, but Drew hasn’t had that kind of success as a head coach.

In 2012, the Hawks had a real opportunity to reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in Atlanta history. The Hawks faced an aging Boston Celtics squad in the first round. The eighth-seed Philadelphia 76ers awaited in the second round after defeating the top-seeded Chicago Bulls.

After splitting the first two games in Atlanta, the Hawks faced a pivotal Game 3 in Boston with the opportunity to retake home court advantage. Atlanta Journal-Constitution beat writer Michael Cunningham used Synergy Sports to break down every offensive possession for Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo. His conclusion? For three quarters, Rondo did not score a single basket while guarded by Hawks combo guard Kirk Hinrich.

The Hawks traded a package that included a former and a future first-round pick to obtain Hinrich from the Wizards in 2011. But in Game 3, Hinrich failed to score a point despite his effective defense. Apparently feeling the need for an offensive spark, Drew left Hinrich on the bench in the fourth quarter and turned to career journeyman Jannero Pargo.

With Hinrich out of the game, Rondo’s offense came to life as he slashed to the basket at will. Boston opened the fourth with a 13-7 run before Pargo went to the bench and Atlanta closed on a 15-7 run to force overtime. The NBA did not publish net rating data at the time, but we can now see via historical data that the Hawks were outscored by nearly 52 points per 100 possessions in Pargo’s minutes in Game 3. Rather than entrust Atlanta’s season and his own legacy to a player the Hawks traded two first-round picks to obtain, Drew went with Pargo, a career end-of-bench player.

What does this mean for the Cavaliers? It means the team needs to get Lue back. Drew and Lue are both former NBA players who have received mixed reviews as head coaches. But when his legacy was on the line, Lue pushed the right buttons.

For Drew’s part, in his first postgame press conference since Lue’s absence was announced, he remained publicly deferential.

“Coach Lue is the one who makes that decision,” said Drew when asked about lineup combinations. “That’s not my call. We look at a lot of different combinations — whether guys are starting or whether they are coming off the bench — and we assess everything.”

On the critical question of how lineups will be fine-tuned as the Cavaliers prepare for the playoffs, Drew once again emphasized Lue’s active role even as he steps away from the bench.

“I’ll talk to Ty,” said Drew. “He’s got the final say-so. Whatever he wants, then that’s what we’re going to go with. But if he tells me to make a decision, then I’ll have to make the decision.”

With Lue suffering acute symptoms, there’s no way of knowing when he will be ready to step back into the pressure cooker of a leading role for a team with championship aspirations. But the Cavaliers need him and need his steadying influence and instincts. Cleveland is a team that has battled through injuries and a major roster overhaul at the trade deadline. It also faces the pressure of James’ impending free agency decision this summer.

Now, with the playoffs just around the corner, the Cavaliers must endure uncertainty about Lue’s ability to return and lead the team. James has emphasized that Lue’s health overshadows any basketball concerns, but gave his most terse remark when asked about learning that Lue would step away on the same day Cleveland finally got Love back.

“If it’s not one thing, it’s another,” said James. “That was my reaction.”

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A Breakout Season for Joe Harris

Brooklyn Nets swingman Joe Harris talks to Basketball Insiders about his second chance with the Nets.

David Yapkowitz



The NBA is all about second chances. Sometimes players need a change of scenery, or a coach who believes in them, or just something different to reach their full potential. They may be cast aside by several teams, but eventually, they often find that right situation that allows them to flourish.

Such was the case for Joe Harris. Originally drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 33rd overall pick in the 2014 draft, Harris rarely saw the court during his time in Cleveland. He averaged about 6.4 minutes per game over the course of about one and a half seasons with the Cavaliers.

During the 2015-16 season, his second in Cleveland, he underwent season-ending foot surgery. Almost immediately after, the Cavaliers traded him to the Orlando Magic in an attempt to cut payroll due to luxury tax penalties. He would never suit up for the Magic as they cut him as soon as they traded for him.

After using the rest of that season to recover from surgery, he would sign with the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2016. He had a very strong first season in Brooklyn, but this season he’s truly broken out.

“I think a lot of it has to do with just the right situation in terms of circumstances. It’s a young team where you don’t really have anybody on the team that’s going out and getting 20 a night,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a collective effort most nights and it can be any given person depending on the situation. It’s one of those things where we’re real unselfish with the ball. A lot of guys get a lot of good looks, so your production is bound to go up just because of the system now that we’re playing.”

Known primarily as a sharpshooter in college at the University of Virginia as well as his first stop in Cleveland, Harris has started developing more of an all-around game. He’s improved his ability to put the ball on the floor and make plays as well as crashing the glass and playing strong defense.

In a relatively forgettable season record-wise for the Nets, Harris has been one of their bright spots. He’s putting up 10.1 points per game on 47.3 percent shooting from the field while playing 25.4 minutes per game. He’s up to 40.3 percent from the three-point line and he’s pulling down 3.3 rebounds. All of those numbers are career-highs.

“My role, I think, is very similar to the way I would be anywhere that I was playing. I’m a shooter, I help space the floor for guys to facilitate,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “I’m opportunistic offensively with drives and such. I’m out there to try and space the floor, knock down shots, and then play tough defensively and make sure I’m doing my part in getting defensive rebounds and that sort of stuff.”

Although Harris didn’t play much in Cleveland, he did show glimpses and flashes of the player he has blossomed into in Brooklyn. He saw action in 51 games his rookie year while knocking down 36.9 percent of his three-point attempts.

He also saw action in six playoff games during the Cavaliers’ run to the 2015 Finals. But more importantly, it was the off the court things that Harris kept with him after leaving Cleveland. The valuable guidance passed down to him from the Cavaliers veteran guys. It’s all helped mold him into the indispensable contributor he’s become for the Nets.

“Even though I wasn’t necessarily playing as much, the experience was invaluable just in terms of learning how to be a professional,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “The approach, the preparation, that sort of stuff. That’s why I learned a lot while I was there. All those good players that have had great, great, and long careers and just being able to kind of individually pick their brains and learn from them.”

When Harris came to Brooklyn two years ago, he initially signed a two-year deal with a team option after the first year. When he turned in a promising 2016-17 season, it was a no-brainer for the Nets to pick up his option. Set to make about $1.5 million this season, Harris’ contract is a steal.

However, he’s headed for unrestricted free agency this upcoming summer. Although he dealt with being a free agent before when he first signed with the Nets, it’s a different situation now. He’s likely going to be one of the most coveted wings on the market. While there’s still a bit more of the regular season left, and free agency still several months away, it’s something Harris has already thought about. If all goes well, Brooklyn is a place he can see himself staying long-term.

“Yeah, it’s one of those things that I’ll worry about that sort of decision when the time comes. But I have really enjoyed my time in Brooklyn,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a great organization with a lot of good people, and they try and do stuff the right way. I enjoy being a part of that and trying to kind of rebuild and set a good foundation for where the future of the Brooklyn Nets is.”

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