Kobe would welcome Melo, Scott

July, 9, 2014
Jul 9
5:53
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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- Kobe Bryant feels great, would welcome Byron Scott as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, would love to play alongside free agent Carmelo Anthony and is pleased with the moves of the team's front office so far.

At least that's how the All-Star guard presented things Wednesday at UC Santa Barbara, where Bryant is hosting his annual youth basketball camp.

But for anybody hoping for definitive answers, Bryant had nothing to offer.

"Obviously it's a hot topic of conversation in terms where everybody is going to go," he said. "Everybody is here to read tea leaves. I don't have much to tell you. I don't have any information you guys don't already know."

Bryant addressed a throng of reporters during a wide-ranging conversation delayed about an hour as he watched the end of the World Cup semifinal match between Argentina and the Netherlands elsewhere.

He teased reporters asking him for his thoughts on the game.

"I missed it," he deadpanned. "I was trying to rush over here to get to you fine folk. I didn't get a chance to catch the end. Who won?"

His joke fooled nobody, as he had moments earlier tweeted his excitement for an Argentina-Germany final, followed shortly by another tweet that expressed his boredom at a by-now all-too-familiar line of questions. The tweet included the hashtags "diffwritersamequestion" and "yawn."

Mostly, Bryant stressed patience in waiting to see who signs where.


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LeBron James met with Miami Heat officials for more than an hour Wednesday afternoon in Las Vegas but emerged without a decision about his future, sources told ESPN.com.

James didn't plan to announce a free-agent decision Wednesday night and had not met with his other primary option, the Cleveland Cavaliers, sources said.

If James does choose to leave the Heat, free agent Chris Bosh will sign with the Houston Rockets, sources said. James not rushing to make a choice could put a time squeeze on Bosh. Though he hopes to remain with the Heat along with James, sources said, Bosh has secured a backup offer for four years and $88 million from the Rockets.

The Rockets' position, however, got more complicated on Wednesday when their restricted free agent Chandler Parsons agreed to a three-year offer from the Mavericks for more than $45 million, sources said. Once Parsons signs the offer sheet, which could be as early as Thursday, the Rockets will only have three days to match.

If the Rockets match, they will lose the requisite cap space needed to sign Bosh. They can match the offer and still afford Bosh, but only if they sign Bosh first. To make room for Bosh, the Rockets will need to execute at least two trades, likely involving Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, to clear cap space.


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The Brooklyn Nets will pay a record $90.57 million in luxury taxes for the 2013-14 season, sources told ESPN.com.

The NBA released its audit to teams ahead of the start of the new fiscal year at midnight Wednesday and revealed the numbers, including the Nets' penalty for splurging after trading for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett last year. In all, the Nets paid more than $197 million in salaries and luxury taxes this past season. Only three other teams had paid more than $90 million in total tax since its inception in 2001.

As part of the memo, the new salary cap was set at $63.065 million, a 7.5 percent increase from last season. That is slightly less than the $63.2 million estimation teams had been using. Revenues were $4.5 billion, up 5.3 percent from last year. The NBA also made an early projection of $66 million for the 2015-16 salary cap.

The new luxury tax line will be $76.8 million, a 7.1 percent increase from last season's $71.7 million. The luxury tax was estimated to increase to $80 million for the 2015-16 season.

Maximum salaries have gone up, as well. The new values are $14.7 for players with 0-6 years of experience, $17.7 for players with 7-9 years experience and $20.6 for players with 10 or more years in the league. LeBron James' max would be $20.6 million under those terms.


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Sources: Melo waiting on LeBron

July, 9, 2014
Jul 9
9:02
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A number of rival teams increasingly believe that New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony plans to hold off on announcing any decision about his future until LeBron James reveals where he'll be playing next season, according to sources close to the process.

Sources told ESPN.com that Anthony, whose decision was widely expected before a resolution to James' situation when free agency began, has kept the Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and other suitors waiting at least in part to see where James goes and whether there would be any option to join his close friend.

Sources say that the Knicks thought they'd know by Monday if Anthony was prepared to commit to new team president Phil Jackson for the long term or sign with the Lakers instead. The Knicks can offer Anthony a five-year maximum deal valued at $129 million, with the Lakers' max offer topping out at $96 million over four years.

The Lakers' pitch to Anthony included a conversation with Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, according to ESPN. Johnson called from his European vacation because, as one source put it, "He will always be a Laker. If he was in town, he'd have been in the meeting."

Los Angeles is determined to wait on James and Anthony before moving on in its pursuit of other free agents. James and Anthony are the Lakers' main targets, but with each passing day, the franchise gets antsy about potentially missing on other free-agent targets such as Pau Gasol and Trevor Ariza.

Anthony has gone as silent as James with free agency now more than a week old, sparking the belief that he's waiting to see if there is a viable opportunity for the two stars to team up.

"He wants to see what LeBron does," one source with knowledge of Anthony's thinking told ESPN. "But he can't wait forever."

The Knicks have tried to maintain their long-held confidence that Anthony will stay in New York, sources said, but the delay has definitely frayed some nerves, with no indication as of Wednesday morning when either Anthony or James plan to make their decisions known.

Anthony held meetings last week with Chicago, Houston, Dallas and the Lakers before granting last word to the Knicks on his interview tour. But there's been a strong belief over the past few days that the 30-year-old is likely to choose between New York and Los Angeles, both cities in which his family is very comfortable.

Anthony's hope of going where James goes, meanwhile, would appear to depend on Chris Bosh


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Dave McMenamin and Arash Markazi discuss the Lakers' roster options if Carmelo Anthony signs with Los Angeles.
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Dave McMenamin and Arash Markazi discuss how the Lakers should approach the offseason if they are unable to land a top free agent.

Fisher: Knicks can be better next year

July, 8, 2014
Jul 8
5:36
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One of Carmelo Anthony's goals in free agency is to put himself in position to compete for an NBA championship.

That would appear to be one knock against the New York Knicks' pursuit of Anthony. The Knicks won just 37 games with Anthony last season.

But Knicks head coach Derek Fisher said Tuesday that he has assured Anthony that the Knicks will be "a better basketball team" than they were last season, according to published reports.

Fisher, team president Phil Jackson and general manager Steve Mills met with Anthony and his representatives in Los Angeles last Thursday to offer their sales pitch to the free agent.

Fisher, speaking in Las Vegas at the team's summer league practice on Tuesday, said he gathered during the meeting that one of Anthony's top priorities is to put himself in a winning situation. And the first-year coach made it clear to Anthony that he felt the Knicks could turn things around in 2014-15.

"He wants to win, wants to be successful," Fisher told reporters of Anthony. "The time I had the visit with him I just shared with him we'll be a better basketball team because we'll play the game a better way, play as a team, play with a system and format to allow the game to be easier for him for him and his teammates.

"I'm not sure if it hit home,'' Fisher added. "I guess we'll find out. Hopefully we'll find out soon."


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LeBron to meet with Pat Riley

July, 8, 2014
Jul 8
2:43
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LeBron James and Pat Riley will have their long-awaited face-to-face meeting Wednesday in Las Vegas, according to league sources.

James is in Las Vegas for his annual basketball camp, the LeBron James Skills Academy, and Riley has flown in for the meeting.

Riley, who sold James on leaving Cleveland to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami four years ago, will try to keep James from leaving the Heat this summer.

In an effort to beef up a Heat roster that James said needs "to improve at every position," Riley reached agreements to sign center/forward Josh McRoberts and forward Danny Granger on Monday.

The meeting with Riley on Wednesday is believed to be the first meeting James has participated in since opting out of the final two years and $42 million of his Heat contract.

James's agent, Rich Paul, met with or spoke with officials from the Mavericks, Rockets, Suns, Cavaliers and Lakers last week, but James was not present.

The four-time MVP told The Associated Press he had "no complaints" when asked how free agency was going on Tuesday.

A person close to the situation told The Associated Press that James and Wade worked out together in Las Vegas on Tuesday morning. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no one has publicly released James' itinerary.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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LeBron has meetings in Las Vegas

July, 8, 2014
Jul 8
2:05
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LAS VEGAS -- LeBron James worked out and had a meeting agenda Tuesday.

In another summer of NBA Free Agent Frenziness, if James knows where he will be playing next season, he still isn't saying.

Asked by The Associated Press how free agency was going when his afternoon meeting agenda was apparently complete, the four-time MVP said "no complaints." He offered a quick greeting, and provided no hints of anything -- including when his next "Decision" will be known -- before leaving with a wave.

The entire exchange lasted about eight seconds. James, who has been relatively quiet while weighing his options, never broke stride.

He was upstairs in an exclusive part of a Las Vegas hotel Tuesday, holding court for a little more than three hours before emerging in the lobby, walking toward his assembled brain trust -- including longtime manager Maverick Carter and Nike representatives, a sponsor of the LeBron James Skills Academy he'll be hosting in Las Vegas starting Wednesday -- and got whisked away.

James is expected to meet with Miami Heat President Pat Riley before making a final decision on his NBA future, and a person close to the situation said that meeting had not happened as of Tuesday afternoon. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no one has publicly announced the date of the meeting.

Some of James' representatives have met with several teams, including the Cleveland Cavaliers.

After filming a TV commercial in Coral Gables, Florida on Monday, James flew to Las Vegas, which was planned because of his academy. Later this week, he's expected to travel to Brazil to the World Cup final.


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Pau Gasol, Scott Brooks meet

July, 8, 2014
Jul 8
12:29
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Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks met with coveted free agent Pau Gasol in Southern California on Monday, multiple league sources told ESPNLosAngeles.com, but the team quietly considers it a "long shot" to acquire him.

It was the latest in a series of pitches to Gasol by members of the Thunder organization. The courtship began last week with a phone conversation between general manager Sam Presti and the two-time NBA champion on Tuesday, followed up by a tag-team face-to-face appeal from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on Wednesday.

Despite the Thunder's persistence in trying to persuade the 34-year old Spaniard to play alongside his Spanish national squad teammate in Serge Ibaka and the reigning MVP in Durant, a league source told ESPNLosAngeles.com on Tuesday that Oklahoma City considers acquiring Gasol a "long shot."

Oklahoma City is limited to roughly $5 million in spending cash under the luxury-tax line to offer Gasol, but had hoped its position as a championship contender -- coming off a Western Conference finals appearance in the spring -- would speak to Gasol more than money.

During Gasol's meeting with Brooks, according to a league source, the 13-year veteran peppered Brooks with questions about the quality of life in Oklahoma City and wondered aloud about leaving a culturally diverse city like Los Angeles for middle America.


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Lakers still playing waiting game

July, 7, 2014
Jul 7
2:18
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Anthony & JamesJim McIsaac/Getty Images
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- While the Los Angeles Lakers tried to move forward with actual basketball Monday, gathering their group of summer league invitees for the first of a handful of practices before summer league tips off in Las Vegas on Friday, there’s still a lot of waiting going on.

Rookie Julius Randle, medically cleared by a foot specialist last week to play on his right foot without any further surgical procedures, is waiting to sign his contract before he can participate in the summer league games.

“We’ll see,” Randle said when asked if he would be suiting up for the Lakers first game against the Toronto Raptors on Friday. “It’s kind of really out of my hands right now. I’m ready to play whenever, but it’s not really in my hands right now.”

The Lakers, of course, are waiting to actually ink Randle to his rookie deal as long as they are pursuing Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, because they want to keep as much cap space open as possible to facilitate the deals.

ESPN writer and salary cap expert Larry Coon explained the Lakers’ reasoning in an email to ESPNLosAngles.com:


“Free agents, first round draft picks and exceptions have ‘cap holds’ which are used to account for the money that is expected to be spent, reducing the amount the team can spend on other teams’ free agents. As the Lakers’ first round draft pick (and number seven overall), Julius Randle has a cap hold on the Lakers’ books for $2.497,800. If the Lakers were to make a free agent offer to, say, Carmelo Anthony, they can’t offer him any of the money that’s in Randle’s cap hold -- it’s set aside for Randle.

“The amount of Randle’s cap hold is determined by the league salary scale, however teams can sign their first round picks for up to 120 percent of the scale amount, which means Randle will be eligible to sign for up to $2,997,360. High draft picks almost always sign for the full amount for which they are eligible. As soon as Randle signs his contract, his cap hold goes away and is replaced with his actual salary -- so instead of counting approximately $2.5 million on the Lakers’ books, he will count nearly $3 million.

"So when a team like the Lakers is chasing free agents, it makes sense to delay the signing of their first round draft picks. If the Lakers were to sign Randle first (assuming he will get the full 120%, which is a near certainty), they would have approximately $500,000 less to offer a free agent.”



Lakers point guard Kendall Marshall has also had his patience tested. He’s on a non-guaranteed contract for next season worth approximately $915,000. Despite starting 45 games last season for L.A. after being plucked from the D-League, he will be playing on the Lakers’ summer league team.

“I feel like I still have a lot to prove,” Marshall said of the summer league assignment. “For some reason, there’s always a reason why I’m successful or why I’m not successful. So I kind of need to put that doubt to rest and just go out there and prove I can play.”

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Stephen A. Smith discusses which team is the leading candidate to sign Carmelo Anthony.

Lance Stephenson exploring market

July, 7, 2014
Jul 7
4:38
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Nearly a week after the Indiana Pacers offered talented but controversial guard Lance Stephenson a five-year, $44 million contract, the two sides remain far apart on a deal, according to sources close to the situation.

Although his desire is to remain with the Pacers, a disappointed Stephenson began exploring the free-agent market after receiving what he felt was a low-ball offer on Tuesday, sources said.

Stephenson has drawn interest from the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers, although both teams have other free agents prioritized above Stephenson, according to sources. The Boston Celtics have also shown interest in Stephenson, according to a source.

Dallas, believing it likely will lose out on both LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, will attempt to sign Chandler Parsons away from the Houston Rockets. The Mavericks also have Luol Deng and Trevor Ariza in their sights, sources said.

But Stephenson has also recently emerged as a target of the Mavericks. A month ago, or even a few weeks ago, Stephenson was not on Dallas' radar, but over the past few days the Mavericks have registered their interest, according to sources.

Dallas is intrigued by Stephenson's versatility. He led the NBA in triple-doubles with five last season, and his 7.2 rebounds per game, highest among the league's guards, could help a Mavericks team that was among the league's worst in rebounding.

Like the Mavericks, the Lakers are targeting the summer's superstars -- James and Anthony -- ahead of Stephenson. They also have an interest in Deng and Ariza, but Stephenson remains a possibility should their other plans fail to materialize.

Meanwhile, the Pacers have not let their stalemate with Stephenson stop them from spending elsewhere. Last week, they agreed with guard C.J. Miles


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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 9.7
AssistsK. Marshall 8.8
StealsJ. Meeks 1.4
BlocksP. Gasol 1.5