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NBA AM: It’s Time For A Decision, LeBron

LeBron James is on the clock, will it be Cleveland or a return to Miami?… Chandler Parsons puts Rockets on the clock… Bulls moving on to next tier of players.

Steve Kyler

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The Moment Of Truth:  The Miami HEAT and free agent LeBron James met in Las Vegas for several hours and have agreed to hold the line as James decides where he wants to play next.

While there have been reports, one in particular, saying that LeBron has reached a decision, sources from both the HEAT and the Cleveland Cavaliers have said if a decision has been made, they have not been informed.

James told the HEAT that he wanted to talk the situation over with his family and would advise the HEAT when he has a decision but offered no timetable for that information.

James is in Las Vegas for his annual LeBron James Skills Academy co-hosted by Nike. James is also scheduled to attend the World Cup championship in Brazil this weekend.

While this process has become more of a horse race than initially expected, especially from the HEAT side, there is no sense yet which direction James is leaning.

The Cavaliers offer something of a mea culpa for James, who scorned his former team in embarrassing fashion in 2010. They have a roster loaded with young talent and an amazing head coach hire in David Blatt. The Cavs have a ton of tradable assets to build a more veteran laden team around James, now and in the future. However the Cavs currently offer a lot of inexperience and youth.

The HEAT offer the comfortable confines of a team that won four straight Eastern Conference titles and two NBA championships. They can and would return the same core James has been playing with plus a few new additions as free agents signings and possible one more via a sign-and-trade deal involving free agent guard Mario Chalmers. The HEAT are arguably the safer bet for a return to the Finals next season, but their future, their roster assets and potential cap flexibility make them a short-term bet, not a long-term one, hence the debate for James and his camp on where to sign next.

There have been several reports that after obtaining James, the Cavs would shift attentions to obtaining Kevin Love from Minnesota. However, when that story first broke on a Cleveland radio station a high ranking Cavs official labeled that concept as “nonsense”. To be fair to the source, the comment was in response to the characterization on the radio that the Cavs had a deal done.

There have also been a couple of other misrepresentations as it pertains to Cleveland, one of which is that they have reached out to HEAT free agent Ray Allen about coming to Cleveland. Sources close to Allen said unless the contact was a private call from James himself, there has been no contact from Cleveland to Allen or his agents. Those sources did not rule Cleveland out as a possibility if Allen continues to play, only that the reported contact had not taken place.

Sources on all sides of this had a similar message – “slow down”. There appears to be such a race to fill the void and be the “first” to report it, before the process has fully played out.

It’s clear the cavaliers are very much in this process, but it also equally clear that James and the HEAT are not finished yet either.

The hope from around the league is that James will resolve his future at some point today, and then those teams that are left standing can make their next move. Although no one has assurances that will take place.

The Rockets On The Clock:  The Dallas Mavericks and restricted free agent Chandler Parsons have reached terms on a three-year, $46 million offer sheet that includes a 15 percent trade kicker and an option year in the third year. Another way to characterize this, it’s a dream deal for a player like Parsons.

Once Parsons signs the offer sheet, which was expected last night, the Rockets will have three days in which to decide to match the deal.

The timing of the offer sheet and sequent signature is interesting because it forces the Rockets hand in many regards. The Rockets are now on the clock to get whatever free agent business done they can, before matching Parsons.

The construction of Parson’s old deal left plenty of room for Houston to sign some free agents with cap space, then handle Parsons’ contract using his Bird rights to exceed the salary cap.

In signing an offer sheet, Parson put the Rockets on the clock in a serious way because if they match him, they would not have cap space to add anyone.

The Rockets have a pre-arranged deal to offload center Omer Asik to the New Orleans Pelicans and it seems they have a similar deal in place involving point guard Jeremy Lin heading to the Philadelphia 76ers along with a protected first round pick.

The Rockets have been after HEAT forward Chris Bosh, and there have been several reports suggesting Bosh would choose the Rockets if LeBron leaves the HEAT. Sources close to the Bosh camp told Turner Sports David Aldridge that Bosh has reached no such agreements and is not planning an exit plan from Miami.

Houston could have as much as $23 million in cap space to work with if they complete the deals to remove Asik and Lin from their cap. They have been aggressive in the market place, but with a decision on Chandler looming, the Rockets have to get some things done today, so expect Houston to be busy. Equally, don’t expect agents with players Houston wants to give them a deal, knowing Houston is under the gun likely means the pricing goes up just a little.

Bulls Moving On:  Carmelo Anthony has not informed anyone of his decision, but the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Chicago Bulls seem to be moving on. Word broke yesterday that Anthony was likely leaning towards a return to the Knicks, and that an official announcement may come as soon as today.

The Bulls have reached out to free agents Pau Gasol, Lance Stephenson, Luol Deng and Trevor Ariza, with Gasol viewed as the top target.

Assuming the Bulls go through with their option to use their one-time Amnesty cut on Carlos Boozer, they can get anywhere from $9 to $13 million in salary cap space and are trying to add potentially two impact players from free agency.

The Bulls could look to offload even more salary in dumping their young guys, but there is a sense that option was only on the table to clear space for Anthony.

Gasol is getting a lot of attention not only from Chicago who may set a price in the $10 million per year range; he is also being heavily courted by the Thunder and the Spurs. While neither is offer the kind of cash Chicago is said to be offering, they are very appealing.

The LA Lakers still retain Gasol’s rights, so there is a window in which a sign-and-trade could be constructed for Gasol, however the Lakers would like to re-sign Gasol themselves and they have more than enough available salary cap cash to get a deal done.

With the July Moratorium on signings lifted, NBA teams can now begin signing contracts. As the deals get completed we’ll have all the details in the 2014 NBA Free Agency Diary. Check it early, check it often.

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.

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Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team

Basketball Insiders

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Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.

“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”

Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN

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NBA PM: Patrick Beverley Set the Tone for Clippers in Season Opener

Patrick Beverley set the tone for the L.A. Clippers with his aggressive defense in their season opener.

Jesse Blancarte

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“The LA Clippers are going to the Western Conference Finals. Guaranteed.”

That bold statement was made by Charles Barkley during TNT’s coverage of last night’s matchup between the Lakers and Clippers.

While Barkley may have had his hot take canon primed and in mid-season form, that should not overshadow the fact that the Los Angeles Clippers put together a strong showing in their first regular season game since the departure of Chris Paul.

Blake Griffin logged 29 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals and knocked down three of his six three-point attempts. Griffin was aggressive and showed no hesitation on his jumper, which seemed to open up lanes for him to drive to the basket (where he is most effective). DeAndre Jordan was fantastic as well, contributing 14 points, 24 rebounds, one assist and one steal.

While the Clippers lost some significant contributors from last season, including J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute and Jamal Crawford, the team had some returning and new players show that they are capable of filling the void.

Milos Teodosic was just 2-9 from the field, but knocked down two three-pointers and looked comfortable and effective running the team’s offense. Danilo Gallinarni shot just 3-13 from the field but looked healthy and spry, displaying the kind of mobility that is necessary to play the small forward position. His ability to act as a secondary playmaker wasn’t on full display, but there were moments where it was apparent that he could be a big help in generating open looks for his teammates. Lou Williams also looked good in his Clippers debut, scoring in a variety of ways off the bench and contributing six assists as well. Wesley Johnson continues to look confident and aggressive, a continuation from his preseason performances, and is starting to knock down the open shots his teammates are creating for him (which has been a problem for him in the past).

While the Clippers looked solid in their opening act without Paul, it should be noted that the Lakers are a young team overall and their defense has been a major problem for the last few seasons. While the Lakers have added some promising young talent over the offseason, like most young teams, they are going to struggle to slow down veteran teams with potent offenses. It would be a mistake to think the Clippers can replicate this sort of offensive performance every night, especially against the better defensive teams in the league. However, perhaps the most promising part of the Clippers’ season debut was the fact that they seemed to feed off of and embrace the gritty demeanor and style of play that Patrick Beverley brings to the court each and every night.

Last night’s game was the NBA debut for rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, who many predict will develop into a star player. Unfortunately for Ball, his opening night matchup came against Beverley, who earned a spot on the 2017 All-Defensive First Team. Beverley repeatedly guarded Ball past half court, pushed him around and did everything he could to throw him off of his game. He held Ball to three points, nine rebounds and four assists in 29 minutes of action.

Beverley, like every NBA player, has heard the hype and noise surrounding Ball and his future in the league (most of it from his outspoken father, LaVar).

“I just had to set the tone,” Beverley said. “I told him after the game that due to all the riffraff his dad brings, that he’s going to get a lot of people coming at him. I let him know that after the game. What a better way to start than spending 94 feet guarding him tonight — welcome the young guy to the NBA.”

Beverley is one of the more aggressive defenders in the NBA and is known for trying to get under the skin of his opponents, so Lonzo may not face this level of intensity in every game. But based on Beverley’s comments, it’s clear that he expects other players around the league to defend Lonzo aggressively as well.

Snoop Dogg, the rapper and passionate Lakers fan, summed up the issue for Ball arguably better than anyone else has so far.

“His father put him in the lion’s den with pork chop drawers on,” said Snoop.

For his part, Lonzo complimented Beverley on his aggressive defense.

“[Beverley] plays hard. He knows his job. He does it very well,” said Ball. “He gets under people’s skin and plays defense and does what he can to help his team win.”

Beverley set the tone for the Clippers, who looked crisp and confident throughout the game. Griffin’s three-point shot looks like it could finally be a reliable part of his offensive arsenal. Jordan was very active on the glass, pulling down 24 rebounds (possibly inspired in part by his commitment to donate $100 per rebound this season to help the effort to rebuild his hometown of Houston after the damage inflicted by Hurricane Harvey). The rest of the supporting cast played with the sort of cohesion and confidence that takes at least a few weeks into the season to develop. Again, the Clippers’ performance could have stemmed primarily from the Lakers’ shaky defense, but it was encouraging to see the team play with such force and confidence in the absence of Paul.

The Western Conference is extremely talented and deep, so it’s unlikely that the Clippers will make it to the Western Conference Finals as Barkley predicted. However, challenging for a spot in the playoffs and perhaps even doing some damage once there seems to be in the realm of possibility. This is especially the case considering how much of an impact Beverley had Thursday night, both defensively and in setting the tone for the rest of his new teammates.

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Morris Bringing Leadership To Celtics

Marcus Morris chats with Basketball Insiders for a one-on-one exclusive.

Spencer Davies

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Returning just one starter from last year’s top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics underwent wholesale changes this past offseason.

Gordon Hayward signed a super max contract. Danny Ainge pried Kyrie Irving away from the Cleveland Cavaliers in a blockbuster deal. Jayson Tatum was selected with the third overall pick in the NBA Draft.

In early July, though, there was an under-the-radar trade executed that hasn’t been mentioned much. Surprisingly, Celtics guard Avery Bradley was sent to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Marcus Morris, a heady wing with size and versatility to add to a revamped core of players.

Bradley was a mainstay with the franchise for seven years and played a vital role as a part of Brad Stevens’ system, but Boston decided to move in a different direction. As for the man they got in return, he’s thrilled to be there.

“It makes me feel good,” Morris told Basketball Insiders of Ainge dealing one of his best former players for him. “It makes you feel wanted.

“This is my first time since I’ve been in the NBA I’ve been on a team with a bunch of guys that [are] All-Stars. With the maturity of the team being this high and having them high expectations on us, I’m excited to get the season going and see how far we can take this.”

The Detroit Pistons likely wanted to keep him, but the organization clearly felt Bradley’s skill set was too good to pass up. For Morris, he insisted there was no indication that his old team would send him away, but he hasn’t been bashful about talking up his new home.

“Had no idea that I was gonna be a Boston Celtic, but I’m ready for the challenge, you know?” Morris said. “I’m excited. Boston, being a Celtic—it’s something that growing up you don’t really see happening, but when it happens it’s an amazing thing.

“It’s like playing for the Patriots, you know what I mean? One of the most heralded teams and most heralded franchises, and Boston is one of those.”

Entering the seventh season of his career, Morris has remained a steady part of the league. During his time in Detroit, he started nearly every game for the Pistons and found a comfort zone that he believes will carry over in Boston.

“Just continue to be consistent, continue to build on my last past couple of years,” Morris said of his personal goals. “I really felt like I carved my spot in the NBA the last two years—averaging 14 a year and helping my team get to the playoffs one of those years, so I really think I’ve carved a niche in this league.”

The success has come thanks to his versatility and the NBA’s current direction pointing towards that type of game. All of a sudden, not having a defined position makes a player more valuable, something Morris is thankful for as he continues to bring a little bit of everything to the table.

“For guys like me, it’s great,” Morris said. “Coming into the league, I had this ‘tweener’ thing on my back and now it’s like [freaking] great to be a ‘tweener’ at this time. I’m actually happy that it’s switching to my position and guys that can do multiple things are being utilized more in this league.”

Putting the ball in the basket has come fairly easy for Morris, who averaged 14.1 points per game on 42.6 percent from the field over 159 games with Detroit. He’s able to stretch the floor and provide solid spacing offensively, and he envisions doing more than that for this Celtics group.

“And leadership,” Morris said. “I’m not too much of a vocal guy, but I’m a passionate guy on the court. I think that’ll rub off on guys. I love scoring. I love shooting the ball. But that’s not the only thing I do.

“I’ve been a tough defender around this league for the last past years and I’m really looking forward to hanging my hat on that again and just doing whatever it takes for my team to get to that next level.”

Stevens is aware of the impact Morris can bring in the locker room and on the floor. When he returns from a sore knee to make his debut for Boston, that’ll show through his play.

“He’s a guy that can stretch the floor at the four,” Stevens said. “He’s a guy that can guard two through four. He’s tough. He’s smart. He works the right way. We’ll be better with Marcus Morris for sure. The versatility is a very important part of what we want to be.

“Whether he is starting in a couple of weeks or whether he’s coming off the bench, at the end of the day he’s gonna be a critical, critical part of our team.”

While he’s waited to come back, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have stepped up in his absence. With Hayward likely sidelined for the rest of the season, that success will have to be sustained. Morris is a big believer in this promising duo and sees how grounded they are to make that happen.

“They’re mature guys for their age,” Morris said. “Jaylen, I think he’s 20. He’s definitely a lot more mature than I thought. Jayson, too. He’s way more mature than your average 19-year-old.

“At the end of the day, it’s just basketball. I think those guys, they’re ready for the challenge. They love the game. They always in the gym, so I think it’ll be easy for ‘em.”

Part of Morris’ role is guiding those two and the other younger pieces that Boston has as they try and establish themselves as professionals. He’s kind of a coach per se, which is somewhat fitting considering what he did this summer.

Most basketball fans are aware of “The Basketball Tournament” that takes nationwide. For those that aren’t, it’s a single-elimination competition between 64 teams in which the champion receives a $2 million prize. Morris was the head coach of Team FOE—standing for Family Over Everything.

Along with his fellow Kansas alums, including his brother Markieff and Thomas Robinson, Morris coached his team to the final game. Team FOE was in front most of the game but ultimately fell to Boeheim’s Army, a squad filled with former Syracuse Orangemen.

“I was on my way man,” Morris said of coming close. “I actually liked it. I’m a smart guy. Me and basketball stuff, I can put it together real well. I was kinda upset we lost in the fashion that we lost, but we’ll be back next year.

“I’m a smart player,” he said regarding a potential future on the sidelines. “I know the game really well. Coaching comes easy for some guys and I’m just one of those guys.”

You could hear “Coach Morris” down the line, but for now and for years to come, Marcus is focused on his first year with Boston. It’s a team that surely has the talent to be the top team in the East it’s pegged to be. Stevens is a basketball savant with great leadership.

Even without an All-Star like Hayward and a 0-2 start, the Celtics should still be a force to be reckoned with. There’s an even greater demand for them to achieve their potential, especially knowing eyes will be on them, but Morris welcomes the challenge.

“Man, it’s pressure on every team,” Morris said. “It ain’t like it’s just all on the Boston Celtics. It’s pressure on every team. What’s a game without pressure anyway?

“Pressure makes it the best thing. That’s what we need to do anyway. I enjoy the pressure. Me personally.”

Shouldering the load won’t be easy, but if it comes down to it, Morris will be swimming instead of sinking. When all is said and done, he shares the same aspirations as most players do—raising the Larry O’Brien trophy in the summer.

“I want to the win the championship,” Morris said. “You put this type of team together to get to those positions. I’m looking to be playing in June and trying to get to a championship.”

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