Lin Wants to Remain With the Hornets
Jeremy Lin was one the biggest bargains in the NBA during the 2015-16 season, as he became one of the league’s most productive reserves on a $2,139,000 salary with the Charlotte Hornets.
Lin, who signed with the Hornets last offseason, averaged 11.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and three assists in 26.3 minutes per game. In his 13 games as a starter, his averages increased to 17.5 points, 4.8 assists and four rebounds, while shooting 46.1 percent from the field and 46 percent from three-point range.
The spark Lin provided off of Charlotte’s bench was obvious, and he finished seventh in the NBA in Sixth Man of the Year voting.
Now, the 27-year-old point guard will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, assuming he exercises his $2,235,255 player option for next year. With the NBA’s salary cap increasing to $92 million, Lin would be one of the players benefitting from plenty of teams having money to spend. Recent comments from Lin suggest that he’ll opt out of the contract he signed last summer.
While Lin would have many of options if he hits the market in July, his preference is to re-sign with the Hornets. He made that very clear recently, after the team was eliminated during the first round of the playoffs against the Miami HEAT.
“I would love to [return to Charlotte]” Lin said, according to The Charlotte Observer. “I don’t like moving every year, I don’t like packing and unpacking boxes. So we’ll see. But I’m definitely interested in coming back.”
While many players say that they would be interested in returning to their respective team, Lin was adamant about this stance and explained why.
“This is the most fun I’ve had in my six years [in the NBA],” Lin said. “Being around a great group of guys and a coaching staff that really cares. I’ve learned so much about the game of basketball, particularly at the defensive end.
“My biggest thing is I want to have fun and be happy. I’ve been paid on the lower end and had a blast, and I’ve been paid on the higher end and not enjoyed it at all. Honestly, money has never been the most important thing. Money is important because it shows how a team values you. But beyond that I don’t care all that much about money. Me coming here showed that.”
The Hornets have a number of big decisions to make this offseason, with players like Nicolas Batum, Al Jefferson, Marvin Williams and Courtney Lee among others all becoming unrestricted free agents in addition to Lin. However, all of these players hitting the market means that Charlotte will have a ton of flexibility this offseason. They currently have just $45,908,700 in guaranteed salaries for next season.
“I definitely want to play with these guys and this coach,” Lin said of Steve Clifford, who finished fourth in Coach of the Year voting. “When you bounce around a lot the way I have, seeing a lot of organizations, there’s a lot about this one that I can appreciate in terms of my experience, that maybe I didn’t have in other situations.
“From the [preseason] China trip, we knew this team really got along. I kind of expected there’d be bumps and bruises along the way as far as guys getting along with each other, but really there wasn’t. I’ve never seen a group of guys at the professional level [where] all the guys 1 through 15 got along together. It wasn’t uncommon for all 15 of us to do something together. That’s really, really rare.”
When asked specifically about what stood out about Clifford, who inked a new three-year deal back in November, Lin said that the coach’s honesty was important to him.
“He’s not one to sugar-coat or lie to you, which is why a lot of guys love playing for him,” Lin said. “What he told me from the beginning is pretty much how it went. I felt like for me, some of the adjustment was playing in such different roles. But that wasn’t because of false expectations, it was just about guys getting hurt.”
This will be a busy summer for a Hornets team that has a lot of players hitting free agency, but bringing Lin back could be one of the easier tasks on Charlotte’s to-do list given how he feels about the situation.
Nowitzki Opting Out, But Likely Staying in Dallas
After the Dallas Mavericks were eliminated by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs, a report surfaced that Dirk Nowitzki would be opting out of his contract. Nowitzki, who earned $8,333,334 this season, had a player option worth $8,692,184 for next year.
Initially, some fans were understandably concerned that the 37-year-old forward would look for greener pastures. However, Nowitzki tried to clear things up with a local radio interview.
“We had one more year on the contract, but I think this is the right thing to do,” Nowitzki said on 1310 The Ticket in Dallas and transcribed by ESPN. “We’re going to sit with Mark [Cuban] and Donnie [Nelson] obviously over the next few weeks and figure out how to improve this franchise again.
“Ever since after the championship [in 2011], we’ve been basically a first-round exit. We’ve been a seven, eight seed. We’ve only won a few playoff games, and obviously the goal was to compete at the highest level in my last couple of years, so there is some moving to do, some thinking, some putting our heads together the next few weeks heading into free agency, heading into the draft. So this is just one move that hopefully starts a chain reaction for us to get better again, to compete really at a high level. We’ll see how it goes.”
Others associated with the organization have added that Nowitzki seems poised to take yet another pay cut in order to help Dallas add marquee free agents this summer.
Nelson recently grew emotional during an interview when describing the sacrifices Nowitzki has made for the Mavericks.
“You look at what he’s done through the course of his career, he’s always been about winning,” Nelson said, according to the Star-Telegram. “How many guys in this day and age are [taking less money to help an organization]? A lot of guys say it, but to whip out the checkbook and to give us more flexibility, those guys are very, very few and far between. He has given this city everything.”
Nowitzki was set to be the third-highest-paid player on the Mavericks next season, but that may change if he inks a smaller deal. Dallas has only $28,965,307 in guaranteed contracts on their books for next season, meaning Cuban, Nelson and Co. will likely have a lot of money to spend on free agents in July.
Cavs Woes Reason For Concern, But Not Dismissal
Spencer Davies takes a look at the Cavs’ issues and why we shouldn’t count them out just yet.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are the classic case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
When they’re on, they look like the defending three-time Eastern Conference Champions. When they’re off, they look like an old team that’s worn down and, at times, disinterested—and it gets ugly.
Take this past three weeks for example. After going on a tear of 18 wins in 19 games, the Cavs have dropped eight of 11 and are falling fast. Two of those three victories in that stretch were decided by four points or less against bottom-of-the-barrel teams in the East.
So what happened? For one, the schedule got significantly tougher. Beyond just the level of competition, Cleveland has been on the road for a long while. Nine of the games in this recent down period have been away games. The only time they’ve been home was for a quick second in mid-December and a short stay for New Years.
You’ve got to think about how that affects a psyche, not only from an on-court standpoint but also in regard to spending time with loved ones and family. LeBron James brought attention to his own homesickness on Christmas Day while he was in the Bay Area instead of in Northeast Ohio to celebrate the holidays. If it gets to him, you know it’s got to get to the other players as well. These guys are human beings with lives, and the rigors of travel can wear differently on people. Luckily for them, seven of their next nine games will be at Quicken Loans Arena.
With that being said, everybody in the NBA goes through it, so it’s no excuse for how flat the Cavs have been. Anybody on the team will tell you that, too. However, when you’re figuring out rotations and re-implementing players who had injuries, it’s not easy. This is exactly why nobody should envy Tyronn Lue.
He’s being asked to make room in his rotations and adjust on the fly as Cleveland gets guys back. When they went on that month-long run, the reason they had success was that the second unit really clicked. Dwyane Wade found his niche as the maestro of the bench bunch along with any mixture of Kyle Korver, Jeff Green, Cedi Osman, Channing Frye, and Jae Crowder. Lue had found the perfect group to spell LeBron James and company.
But then, Tristan Thompson came back and, with all due respect, it messed with their flow. The spacing is no longer there for Wade or Green to penetrate because the paint is clogged. It makes it easier on opposing defenses to just stick to Korver because there aren’t any other threatening shooters on the floor (besides Osman, maybe). Worst of all, the change basically kicked Frye—who has a plus-14 net rating, according to Cleaning The Glass—out of the rotation completely.
Deciding who plays and when is a tough job. Derrick Rose is set to come back soon. Iman Shumpert is coming along as well. Lue likes a 10-man rotation, but there are at least 12 players who deserve to be on that court. We already know Rose is expected to commandeer the second unit in Wade’s absence on back-to-backs. As for if Shumpert remains in Cleveland, who knows? It’ll be interesting to keep an eye on how this situation is managed moving forward.
Isaiah Thomas, on the other hand, is somebody the Cavs have been waiting on to return since the season started. Despite LeBron being LeBron and Kevin Love having as great of an offensive year as he’s ever had on the team, the starting unit lacks an extra punch. Thomas can be that shot in the arm, and he proved that in his debut at home against Portland and on the road in Orlando. There are two snags that both he and the team are going to hit before the 29-year-old returns to his All-Star form: 1) He’s got to get his legs under him to regain the consistency in his game and 2) His teammates are going to have to adjust to playing with him.
These are not easy things to do. Remember, aside from Jae Crowder, there is nobody on Cleveland’s roster that has played with Thomas before. Add in that he’s trying to re-discover his own game and that makes for a pretty bumpy road, at least out of the gate.
Start here—put Thompson in the starting lineup. As poor of a fit he’s been on the bench, he has shown promising signs of a developing chemistry with Thomas. It’s only been four games, but he loves having a partner in the pick-and-roll game. That’s clearly where you’ll get the most production out of him and how he can thrive. He’ll provide hustle, second chance opportunities, and a semi-decent big that can at least bother some of the competition’s drives to the basket. Sliding Love over to the four might change his game a little bit, but you can still get him going in the post before giving him chances as a shooter to work him outside-in.
The resulting effect helps the second unit as well. They’ll get one of either J.R. Smith or Crowder, depending on who would be relegated there. Both of those guys can use a spark to get them going. Because of Crowder’s familiarity with Thomas, let’s say Smith gets kicked out. Maybe that gets him out of the funk he’s in? It also allows for Frye, who hasn’t seen more than 20 minutes in a game since December 4, to get re-acclimated to a group he truly helped on both ends of the floor earlier in the year.
Outside of the need to make a move at the deadline, the Cavs can figure this out. It’s understood that they’re the fourth-worst defensive team in the NBA, but they’ve gone through these kinds of ruts at this time of year, specifically since LeBron came back. There might not be statistical evidence backing up the claim of any improvement, but the track record speaks for itself.
The panic button is being hit, but pump the brakes a bit. This isn’t anything new. The pieces are a little different and things look as bad as they ever have, but in the end, the result will likely be the same.
NBA Daily: Zach LaVine Has Solid Debut With Bulls
Zach LaVine put together a solid performance for the Bulls in his first game back from injury.
The Chicago Bulls are turning a corner this season. Zach LaVine is healthy after completing a year of rehabilitation from an ACL injury. LaVine’s return comes at a critical moment. The team is 13-7 over the last twenty games. Many of the wins in this stretch are over current competitors for a potential spot in the playoffs. This includes wins against the Charlotte Hornets (in overtime), the Philadelphia 76ers and three wins (one in overtime) against the New York Knicks. The stretch of winning ties into the return of forwards Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic. Having these key players back and winning this many games recently has changed the dynamics of what had been shaping up to be a losing season.
LaVine played in his first game of the season on Saturday and hit three of four three-point baskets while scoring 14 points in 19 minutes played. LaVine described how he felt physically and about the team’s recent run.
“I thought I did pretty good. I was tired as hell at first. But, we got the win,” LaVine said. “We’re going to keep this thing going.”
The team went into this season having parted ways with their franchise player, Jimmy Butler, in a trade that was derided by many for being lopsided. The trade netted the Bulls LaVine, point guard Kris Dunn and the sixth pick in the 2017 draft in exchange for Butler and the number 16 pick. The trade also allowed Butler to be reunited with coach Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota. For the Bulls, Dunn has greatly improved from the poor play of his rookie season in Minnesota. In addition, the Bulls selected Lauri Markkanen, whom has already displayed some serious talent and potential. Now with LaVine in the lineup, the Bulls can see the total value of the trade on the court.
So, where do the Bulls now stand? According to FiveThirtyEight, as of January 14, the Bulls are projected as having a three percent chance of making the playoffs with a projected record of 32-50. This is a jump from less than one percent (essentially zero percent) back on December 11, 2017. Still, three percent is not the most reassuring projection.
In addition, the recent shift to winning basketball also puts Chicago’s 2018 draft pick in a more precarious position. On December 6, 2017, the Bulls were 3-20 and were on pace to have one of the worst records in the league, if not the worst. Now every win moves the pick further away from a likely top three or even a potential number one pick and moves it closer to a top-10 selection or even middle of the first-round pick.
At the moment, the team is 16-27, good enough for 12th place in the Eastern Conference behind the Hornets, Knicks, 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks for the eighth and final spot in the playoffs. Being 6.5 games back and having seven more losses than the Bucks means the Bulls will need to continue winning at a high rate to make up the difference in the time left in the season.
LaVine didn’t hold back when it came to expressing his optimism regarding the team’s potential.
“I think we can make a push for this thing,” LaVine said. “That’s our job to do. That’s our job to do that,”
LaVine isn’t paying much attention to skeptics who still don’t believe the Bulls have much change to win anything meaningful this season.
“You know, we can’t control outside thoughts or anything,” LaVine said. “We’re ball players, we go out there and try to win every competition. You know, I think we’re good. I think we’re going to be good.”
In LaVine’s absence, Mirotic and Portis (despite their offseason scuffle) have emerged as two of the team’s best players. In addition, center Robin Lopez has done an admirable job keeping up his effort all season long while fulfilling his role as a veteran leader for the team. Lopez described the atmosphere on the team as positive recently in an interview with Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders.
Despite the reason for optimism, it must be noted that the franchise might make another big trade that would diminish the team’s ability to be competitive this season. Despite his recent on-court success, reports are that Mirotic would like to be traded and that the Bulls asking price is a first-round pick.
Until such a move occurs, the Bulls appear poised to maintain their recent rate of success. Every win could cost the Bulls what could be a top overall pick in 2018. Regardless, the Bulls are surely feeling better about the results of the Butler trade, especially after LaVine’s impressive Chicago debut.
NBA Daily: Lopez’s Enjoys “Old Guy” Role on Young Team
Robin Lopez is the old man on a very young Chicago Bulls team, but he says the camaraderie is a big reason why he’s happy there, and why the team is overachieving so much this year.
When the Chicago Bulls started the season 3-20, nobody was surprised that they stunk. Everything was fine. They were supposed to stink. That was the entire reason they traded away Jimmy Butler for younger players in the first place. They wanted got their rebuild underway in earnest. (more…)