Some random pindowns on the heels of a busy, calm-before-the-storm weekend across the NBA…
1. While there is much uncertainty regarding what the 2018-19 Cleveland Cavaliers will look like because LeBron James continues to keep the basketball world waiting, the franchise has quietly put together a team to compete in the Las Vegas Summer League that will be worthy of setting the DVR.
2. In addition to Collin Sexton, the former Alabama star point guard taken with the No. 8 overall selection in the draft Thursday night, the Cavs have also signed former five-star Kansas recruit Billy Preston, former Notre Dame double-double machine Bonzie Colson and former Purdue combo guard Dakota Mathias as players who went undrafted.
3. They will join holdovers from last season’s squad Cedi Osman, Ante Zizic, Okaro White and John Holland in playing in the summer league, which will tip off Friday with a record 10 games — the opener being a matchup between the Pacers and the Rockets at 3 p.m. on NBA TV — and run through the championship game July 17. For the first time, all 82 games will be broadcast on live television, with the ESPN networks and NBA TV combining to show the games. All 30 NBA teams are taking part in the league.
4. Here are the Cavaliers’ games scheduled so far, with others to be determined: Friday vs. Washington (6 p.m., NBA TV), Saturday vs. Chicago (6:30 p.m., ESPN2), Monday, July 9 vs. Indiana (2 p.m., ESPN2).
5. To the surprise of, well, no one, Carmelo Anthony chose to not exercise the early termination option on his deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder that will pay him $27.9 million next season.
6. Anthony has drawn much criticism for not opting out, but why? The New York Knicks knew what the risks they were taking when they signed Anthony to the deal July 13, 2014. And the Thunder certainly were aware of the risks coming with an aging Anthony carrying such a monstrous number for next season when they traded for him Sept. 25, 2017. There’s plenty of blame to go around in regards to his contract, but none of it should be directed at Anthony.
7. After the Thunder were eliminated in the first-round of the playoffs, Anthony was asked about his future role with the team and said this: “It’s something I really have to think about, if I really want to be this type of player, finish out my career as this type of player, knowing that I have so much left in the tank and I bring so much to the game of basketball.”
8. By the way, Anthony has earned almost $232 million in his 15 NBA seasons, which includes seven years with Denver, another seven with New York and last season with Oklahoma City.
9. The NBA free-agency period begins at midnight July 1. Who will be the first player to sign a contract when it tips off? Last year, it was Tony Snell, who agreed on a four-year, $46 million deal with the Milwaukee Bucks. Two years ago, the basketball world was put on tilt when Timofey Mozgov agreed to a stunning four-year pact for $64 million with the Lakers.
10. With not nearly as much out there for teams to spend this offseason, look for someone to step up and take the early money again and run.
11. These eight names stand out with free agency ready to take flight at midnight Saturday night — James (player option), Kevin Durant (player option), Paul George (player option), Chris Paul (unrestricted), DeMarcus Cousins (unrestricted), Clint Capela (restricted), DeAndre Jordan (player option) and J.J. Redick (unrestricted).
12. Of those eight, Durant is all but a certainty to reup with Golden State, Paul is pretty much in the same boat with Houston and Cousins is coming off a torn left Achilles’ tendon and may have to settle for a shorter-term deal than he was driving toward before going down in a January game in Houston. Capela is an intriguing young big man, Jordan has his 30th birthday on the horizon and Redick is on the back end of his career, though he is coming off an excellent season with Philadelphia.
13. Which leaves most of the drama surrounding James (of course) and George. Where they decide to hang their hats next season will dominate the free-agency period. It could be together with the Lakers if both opt out. However, if George decides to re-sign with OKC as has been rumored of late, that leaves James without a big-name player to join him in LA, unless…
14. Kawhi Leonard is able to strong-arm the Spurs into granting his wish to be traded to the Lakers. Having reportedly informed Spurs coach Gregg Popovich during a face-to-face meeting last week in San Diego that he does indeed want out and wishes to be sent to the Lakers, would Pop and San Antonio general manager R.C. Buford cave to Leonard? Or, would they follow through and send him to an Eastern Conference team, as has been reported?
15. If George remains with the Thunder and the Spurs do indeed ship Leonard East, that would pretty much close the door on James signing with the Lakers, at least this summer. Would that alone send him back to Cleveland?
16. Chris Sheridan, senior sports gambling writer for getmoresports.com, has had this tweet from Aug. 17, 2017 pinned atop his Twitter page for months: “NBA source said today: ‘This will be LeBron’s final season in Cleveland. He is 100 percent leaving. Relationship with owners beyond repair.'”
17. Sheridan broke down his track record on LeBron’s previous moves Sunday: “I did not ‘call’ it in ’14, I ‘reported’ it 48 hours before the official announcement. In 2010, I said Miami was a 90 percent possibility, but I was in the dark while Jim Gray asked LBJ if he was still biting his fingernails. In ’18, I stand by what I reported in Aug. ’17.” Over the weekend, Sheridan reported James’ “Decision III” will be known July 6.
18. Conversely, Brian Windhorst of ESPN said be believes James’ choice will be known before July 4. Sheridan and Windhorst are both respected, experienced NBA beat guys, so stay tuned.
19. If James shocks the basketball world (outside of Cleveland) and chooses to stay put, what moves could the Cavaliers make in an effort to stay ahead of hard-charging Boston and Philadelphia in the East, especially if Leonard lands in either spot?
20. As I opined in a Sunday column, I’m of the belief the Cavs will swing a deal with Charlotte for two-time All-Star point guard Kemba Walker if James returns to Northeast Ohio for his 16th NBA season. Don’t be surprised if Nicolas Batum and his horrific contract is attempted to be added by Charlotte.
21. James and Kevin Love would need another proven scorer, as was shown in the postseason — save for the second-round sweep of the Raptors — and Walker, a career 18.9-point scorer who has averaged more than 20 points a game in each of the last three seasons, would provide that. With little or no hope of signing Walker to an extension before he hits free agency next summer, the Hornets are facing losing him for nothing, so they have motivation to get something done as well.
22. Sexton wore jersey No. 2 both in high school and in college, so it seemed perfectly normal he would opt to don the same number in the NBA. Some, however, were surprised the Cavaliers issued the number to the rookie because of the guy who previously wore that number, Kyrie Irving.
23. Listen, Irving wanted out of Cleveland, even reportedly going as far as to threaten to have knee surgery and miss the entire season if his request to be traded was not honored. Why in the world would the Cavs give any consideration to a guy who wanted out and supposedly threatened to have knee surgery if he was not permitted to exit? They owe him absolutely nothing. What’s the old saying, “if you’re not with us… ?”
24. And finally, best wishes to the legendary Nate “Tiny” Archibald, who recently had a heart transplant. The only guy to lead the NBA in scoring and assists in the same season (1972-73 for the Kansas City Kings), I had the pleasure of meeting Tiny at the incredible NBA All-Star Game in Cleveland in 1997.
25. That weekend, the league paid tribute to the 50 greatest players in the history of the game and Archibald, inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1991, was one of the honorees. He was gracious and appreciative when I told him he inspired me as a ham-and-egger high school point guard and went as far as to ask me about my “career,” such as it was. Get well soon, Tiny.