Rumor Roundup: Cavs, Ewing, Thunder

LeBron James and the Cavaliers have struggled defensively in recent weeks.

A look at the latest news, moves and views from around pro hoops:

Per the Akron Beacon Journal: “Can the Cavaliers fix their struggling defense without a better example than the one the best player in the world set against the Denver Nuggets? Or was LeBron James sending a message that with 12 games remaining, it’s time to man-up, both literally and figuratively?”

Per the Akron Beacon Journal: “Maybe this time James let his actions as well as his words speak, even as the Cavs had their starting lineup together for the first time since Dec. 17.”

Per the Akron Beacon Journal: “I hope that was his intention because James’ play did not always set the proper tone. Only Irving seemed inspired to turn the game around as he scored 14 of his 33 points in the third quarter.” (Full column.)

Per ESPN Stats & Information: “The Cavs are currently 22nd in the NBA in defensive efficiency. Last season’s team ranked 10th in the metric, tied with the 2005-06 Heat for the second-worst by a NBA champion in the last 20 seasons.”

Per Amico Hoops: “Kay Felder opened the game with a 26-foot jumper that swished through the net. He closed it with a puzzling decision to dunk at the buzzer, after most players were standing around with their shirts untucked, the home team having conceded a 110-99 loss.” (Full report.)

The Cavs recalled center Larry Sanders from the Canton Charge, per the team.

Per Yahoo Sports: Georgetown officials plan to consider the head-coaching candidacy of the university’s most legendary basketball alumnus, Patrick Ewing, sources told The Vertical.”

Per Yahoo Sports: “Ewing, the associate head coach of the Charlotte Hornets, has been an NBA assistant coach for 15 seasons and has increasingly become a viable NBA head-coaching candidate.”

Per Yahoo Sports: “Ewing, 54, has long been committed to pursuing an NBA head-coaching job and moved closer to getting one with the Sacramento Kings in the spring. Only the sudden availability of Dave Joerger, whom Memphis fired, stood between Ewing and a formal offer, league sources said.” (Full report.)

Per Amico Hoops: “Now, as far as anyone can tell, Steve Clifford is not feeling any heat from Michael Jordan or the Hornets front office. There have been no wild Internet rumors that Clifford is on the way out.” (Full report.)

Per Amico Hoops: “But this is the NBA, and pro basketball history is full of tales of teams such as the Hornets, teams that are sort of spinning their wheels, teams that get rid of good coaches for the purpose of trying a different voice.” (Full report.)

Per Amico Hoops: “Great coaches can make decent teams really good, and can turn great teams into dynasties,” one general manager told Amico Hoops. “But if you don’t have a couple superstars in the NBA, you’re getting fired within five years. I don’t care if your name is Poppovich.” (Full report.)

Per The Oklahoman: “The Thunder is in rebuilding mode, trying to find the ideal fit of players around Russell Westbrook. But in a league driven by stars, how close is OKC to getting another All-Star alongside the MVP candidate?”

Per The Oklahoman: “The Thunder’s time to get a star alongside Westbrook is ticking. He has one more guaranteed year on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2018.”

Per The Oklahoman: “Bobby Marks, a former NBA front office executive who writes for Yahoo! Sports, says the premise of getting an All-Star to pair with Westbrook is easier said than done, especially since the Thunder’s first-round picks in 2018 and 2020 go to Philadelphia and Utah, respectively. Teams cannot trade first-round picks in consecutive seasons.” (Full report.)

Per the Sacramento Bee: “In the final season of the four-year, $44 million contract he signed with New Orleans in 2013, Tyreke Evans is slated to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time this summer. In that sense, every time Evans takes the court is a chance to show he is healthy and still capable of playing at a high level.”

Per the Sacramento Bee: “A lot of teams know I had tough injuries so they want to see how I’m moving, how I’m playing every night,” Evans said. “There’s teams watching. I know the Kings are watching, too. So I’m playing for my teammates still at the end of the day, but I’m going out there and being myself.” (Full report.)

Per the New York Post: “With the momentum for more focus on Phil Jackson’s system next October, Jeff Hornacek admitted he’s uncertain if the marquee trio of former MVP Derrick Rose, 10-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony and 2016 Rookie of the Year runner-up Kristaps Porzingis fit the system well enough to form the nucleus of a playoff team in 2017-18.”

Per the New York Post: “Rose is a pending free agent who has talked about the triangle being “random basketball.’’ Anthony, whose comments Monday in Los Angeles made his Knicks future seem unsettled, is reluctant to even mention the triangle at this point. Porzingis is a supporter of the triangle, and the first Knick to point out Hornacek’s blended system caused “confusion.’’ (Full report.)

Per the Palm Beach Post: “Source tells me Heat guard Dion Waiters’ ankle is progressing. Dion wanted MRI if ankle wasn’t progressing, but it’s getting better so no MRI scheduled.”

Per The Step Back: “Anthony Brown has a stress fracture in his left ankle and will miss the remainder of the D-League season.”

The Thunder assigned forward Josh Huestis to the Oklahoma City Blue, per the team.

The Bulls assigned point guard Cameron Payne to the Windy City Bulls, per the team.

Florida State guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes will enter the NBA draft, per the school.

La Salle’s B.J. Johnson will enter the NBA draft but not hire an agent, per FanRag Sports.

Rutgers guard Corey Sanders will enter the NBA draft and not hire an agent, per the school.

Per Hoops Rumors: “Nineteen-year-old Latvian forward Verners Kohs will apply for the draft as an early-entry candidate, according to agent Arturs Kalnitis.”

Per ESPN: “No. 1 prospect Michael Porter Jr. has been granted his release from his letter of intent to play for the Washington Huskies, the school confirmed Thursday.”

Per ESPN: “Meanwhile, his dad, Michael Porter Sr., has accepted an assistant coaching positing under new coach Cuonzo Martin at Missouri, he told ESPN.” (Full report.)

The Nets have French sharpshooter Edwin Jackson on their radar, per international basketball reporter David Pick.

Podcast: Amico on what matters now for Cavs