Ring ring. Ring ring. Hello? Santa Monica Pier. 10 minutes. The man wearing the sunglasses and flip flops then headed south on Third Street Promenade and threw his burner phone into the first trash receptable he saw. At the same time, another meeting was being consummated in the parking lot at the Marina Del Rey Harbor. How did things get to this point?
It started the day LeBron James made the Decision to take his talents to South Beach, which prompted Cavs owner Dan Gilbert to pen this letter. To say there was animosity on both sides is an understatement. But LeBron came back to Cleveland. In an interview on The Shop, “James said his mother and his wife weren’t on board with the idea of him going back to Cleveland specifically because of that letter. He had to then explain that his return would mean so much more than just playing for the Cavs again, and why the letter is small potatoes.“For Gilbert, he’s worth $6.3 billion for a reason.
The arrangement was “strictly business” for both. It’s like the current US/China relationship. They both need each other, but don’t necessarily like each other. At the end of the day, they are going to act with their self interest in mind. In 2016, the elusive NBA Championship was delivered to the city of Cleveland and both sides benefitted tremendously.
All was not good, though. GM David Griffin, someone LeBron was fond of, was not re-signed in 2017. Then the Kyrie Irving drama transpired. There are probably so many things behind the scenes that we will never know about the situation, so I won’t even go there. The important thing to take away from the whole ordeal was that LeBron was not consulted on the trade to ship him off the Boston.
Now, let’s take a look at LeBron’s contract. He has a player option of $35.6 million for next year, then is an UFA. He has not excercised that player option, so is a potential free agent this summer. I remember when the Russians and US would talk about cutting back the number of nukes they had. You cut yours first. No, only after you cut yours. Trust issues for sure all around.
Let’s return to our two mysterious men from the intro. One represents Team LeBron, while the other is from Team Gilbert. Both are meeting with representatives from the Los Angeles Lakers.
Team LeBron: You and I both know the King is leaving Cleveland. We like the young pieces you’ve assembled, but we can’t even give you a meeting this summer if you can’t make room for another superstar.
Team Gilbert: You and I both know That Guy is leaving Cleveland. We would like young pieces to plan for the future. We know you’re trying to make cap room for this summer, so we’ll help you out and give you our 1st round pick. Don’t even think about the BKN pick. Just please, for the love of God, take Isaiah Thomas off our hands.
Los Angeles Lakers:
Team Gilbert wasn’t done, though, as they consummated a bevy of moves that brought the Twittersphere into a tizzy. Here’s how everything went down:
Deal 3: Dwayne Wade goes to Miami for a protected second-round pick.
CLE: I really like what the Cavs did here. They do improve for this season. Derrick Rose is turrable, while Jae Crowder has been terrible. Iman Shumpert has played 6 minutes in over two months. Channing Frye is a good stretch 4, but whatever. He’s Channing Frye. Isaiah Thomas has been putrid on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. The team gets younger with Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., both of whom are 25 years old. Clarkson is athletic, can shoot, and play both as the primary ball handler or off the ball. Nance is an athletic freak that can board and thrive in transition. George Hill is a solid veteran that can play both the 1 and 2. Will also help out on the defensive side of the ball. Rodney Hood is an excellent get. The guy can flat out score. Deadly from downtown and has a deadly mid-range game, due to the fact that he’s 6′ 8″ and can shoot over most defenders. I think the two sneaky moves in all of this are the Shumpert and Wade moves because they clear two roster spots. There are a ton of big men that will potentially be bought out by their clubs. Lines up perfectly for what the Cavs need. The Wade move also signifies that, while the moves do help the Cavs this year, they were done more for the future that will be without LeBron James.
LAL: Isaiah Thomas is a fine get for the Lakers. As I’ve been mentioning in the past few recaps, I’m a buyer. I would be even more now. The Lakers play at a good pace and their offense should be a better environment for IT. He’s still getting back into the groove and the shots will start falling. The D is always a concern, though, as is the playing time. It will be interesting to see how the rotations will pan out. Lonzo Ball is actually better off the ball. So is Brandon Ingram, whom the Lakers have constantly put into pick-and-roll situations. IT is a better PNR player than either of those two. More than likely, when Ball returns, I think it’s Lonzo at the 1, KCP at the 2, Ingram at the 3, Kuzma/Randle at the 4, and Lopez at the 5. Bring IT off the bench to be the main guy for the second unit. The biggest beneficiary is Josh Hart, who is now a vital piece of the rotation. Will probably back up KCP, but can also play the point. Obviously, the biggest thing about the IT and Frye acquisitions is that both are UFA after this season. They get out of the Clarkson contract, which was for two more years and $26 million remaining. As Cole Zwicker posted on Twitter, the Lakers now have room to sign two “superstars.” There’s still the Luol Deng abomination of a contract, but there have been options thrown around to deal with that, likely stretching it out over time. And, let’s not forget about the Cavs 1st rounder, which will likely be in the mid-20s. Remember, the Lakers picked Kyle Kuzma at #27 and Josh Hart at #30 in last year’s NBA Draft.
UTA: Derrick Rose is an expiring contract and gives the team depth at guard. Jae Crowder can play power forward, shoot from downtown, and play good D. Seems like he’d be a decent fit in Utah. This probably means Derrick Favors is traded or bought out. With Rodney Hood and Joe Johnson both out, that solidifies the role for Joe Ingles and should give Royce O’Neale and Alec Burks more run.
SAC: No idea what they are doing.