Marc Stein: Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers will trade Jarrett Jack to the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday as part of a three-team deal with Boston to create more salary-cap space for the pursuit of LeBron James, according to sources close to the process.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Nets have agreed to take on the contracts of Jack and youngster Sergey Karasev from the Cavaliers in a swap that also will see the Celtics acquire Brooklyn's Marcus Thornton, Cleveland's Tyler Zeller and a future first-round pick from the Cavaliers.
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The exact number of teams to secure face-to-face meetings with Cleveland-based Rich Paul was not immediately known, but sources told ESPN.com that the Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and James' home state Cleveland Cavaliers have all had the opportunity to make presentations to Paul in recent days.
ESPN's Chris Broussard reports that Suns owner Robert Sarver, in particular, met with Paul on Wednesday and pitched the idea of luring James from Miami to the desert by trying to sign Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh as well.
Sources also tell Broussard that Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert had a meeting with Paul this week.
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Speaking strictly about 2014, who would dare argue?
You simply can’t argue after scanning through this quick and handy recap of what we’ve seen from the Cavaliers over the last six weeks … without even factoring in the sight of Johnny Manziel being spotted at an NBA Finals game in San Antonio wearing a Cavs cap:
May 20: The Cavs, with a 1.7 percent chance of success, win the 2014 NBA Draft Lottery.
June 21: Springing a major surprise, Cleveland names David Blatt as its new coach, after Blatt -- an American-born naturalized Israeli who, at 55, has no NBA experience -- led Maccabi Tel Aviv to a wholly unexpected Euroleague championship.
June 26: Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins is selected with the No. 1 overall pick.
July 1: The Cavs quickly strike a verbal agreement with disgruntled-no-more star guard Kyrie Irving on a maximum five-year, $90 million contract extension.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Nets, amid fears that they'll be unable to re-sign Shaun Livingston in free agency, have identified Jack as a prime target to either help fill the void or improve their backcourt versatility.
After arriving in Brooklyn in a mid-season trade with Sacramento, Thornton has only one year left on his contract, which would appeal to the Cavaliers as they attempt to create as much salary-cap flexibility as possible for the summer of 2015.
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Even after all of this season's toxicity in Cleveland.
Could Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, even with those famously deep pockets, really stomach firing Mike Brown just one year into a five-year remarriage?
Now we know the answer after mostly silence from Gilbert since the season ended.
The aforementioned announcement dispatched by the Cavs to start the new week, if not quite Manziel-ian, ranks as a double-fisted whopper. Stuffed into the same paragraph as the news that David Griffin has been formally named Cleveland's full-time general manager was the revelation that Brown "has been released" as Cavs coach.
It's certainly not a shocker in terms of pure performance. Gilbert's willingness to rehire Brown after his flameout with the Lakers was roundly questioned at the time and quickly generated buyer's remorse when the Cavs descended into chaos, lowlighted by Brown's clashes with star guard Kyrie Irving.
Gilbert had to swallow a borderline unprecedented four years of guaranteed salary to Brown to give the freshly installed Griffin free rein to bring in his own man ... and make it clear to Irving in the process that the Cavs are prepared to do whatever it takes to get him to sign that max extension between July 1 and Halloween. Mere days after the 2012-13 season, you'll recall, Gilbert awarded Brown a five-year, $20 million deal and insisted to the world that firing him the first time -- shortly before LeBron James' exodus to Miami -- was a mistake.
But now you know why the Cavs' GM job, for all the skepticism (and worse) Gilbert routinely attracts, appealed to many candidates beyond Griffin. The Cavs not only have the mercurial Irving in place to try to (re)build around but also an owner who's willing to spend like few of his peers.
Which means the well-respected Griff, as everyone knows him, will have the opportunity to bring in the coach of his choosing to take charge of a squad that features no shortage of highly drafted youngsters (Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett) before we even get to Irving.
The immediate buzz in coaching circles, in terms of potential Brown replacements, has focused on various coaches Griffin worked with as a Phoenix Suns executive: Alvin Gentry, Vinny Del Negro and, yes, Mike D'Antoni. Available veterans such as Lionel Hollins, George Karl and Mark Jackson are likewise quickly connected to any opening these days -- with USA Today's Sam Amick also listing Chicago Bulls assistant Adrian Griffin as a top candidate -- but you're advised to keep an eye on Gentry.
Currently an assistant to Doc Rivers with the Los Angeles Clippers, Gentry is well-versed in the spread-the-floor style Griffin is said to favor and is widely expected to get one more head-coaching shot after his success with the Suns as D'Antoni's successor.
What can be said without hesitation, at this early juncture, is that David Griffin is the guy who'll get to take this search in any direction he wants, all thanks to Gilbert's at-any-price willingness to remove the coach connected to Griffin predecessor Chris Grant.
And you'd have to say, expensive as that loaded press release was, that the Cavs are making the call they have to make here. If the Irving/Brown relationship was indeed unsavable, with all those extension talks looming, it's far wiser to let Griffin start over to try to keep building on what is said to be a promising early connection with the young Team USA stalwart.
Better to let him put his stamp on the Cavs' bench, no matter who did or didn't see this coming, before Griffin launches into this summer's crucial phase of roster renovations.
Fredette's buyout could be finalized as soon as Thursday, sources told ESPN.com.
And Fredette's representatives have already commenced talks with interested teams, with one source saying that the third-year shooting guard is giving strong consideration to signing with a playoff team in the East.
ESPN.com reported earlier this week that the Memphis Grizzlies were pursuing Fredette, but the Grizzlies bowed out Wednesday, claiming former New York Knicks guard Beno Udrih off waivers when they sensed Fredette preferred other options.
The Bulls have been handcuffed all season by luxury-tax concerns but, according to sources, quickly threw themselves into the Fredette mix after it became apparent this week that the sharpshooter would be parting company with Sacramento.
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ESPN has learned deal will send Luke Ridnour and Gary Neal to Charlotte for Ramon Sessions and Jeff Adrien— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 20, 2014
Quite a dance playing out on Jordan Hill front. Lakers want pick for Hill. But I'm told Nets want pick from Lakers for saving them $7+ mil— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 20, 2014
Taking Jordan Hill into Brook Lopez DPE would cost BKN $17-ish mil & save Lakers $7-ish mil. Less than three hours to go for deal to be made— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 20, 2014
As of last night, I'm told, Rockets were strongly leaning toward keeping Omer Asik rest of season before trying to trade him again. But ...— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 20, 2014
But I must note that Rockets' GM Daryl Morey always makes a deadline trade and we still have three hours left until trade season is over— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 20, 2014
Sources say Nuggets now proceeding w/acquisition of Beno Udrih from Knicks for Jordan Hamilton. Why DEN needed third team for Eric Maynor— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 20, 2014
RT @WindhorstESPN: Clippers and Cavs have had discussions on trade involving Reggie Bullock for Tyler Zeller, sources told ESPN— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 20, 2014
Heat is expected to receive a highly protected SAC second-round pick to complete the swap for Mason that will most likely never be conveyed— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 20, 2014
Sacramento will receive cash only -- no picks -- in trade for Roger Mason with Miami. Mason will be waived. @KBergCBS first reported deal— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 20, 2014
But these are the new Kings.
So they want to make more.
Sources close to the talks told ESPN.com that the Kings are in discussions with the Cleveland Cavaliers about a trade that would bring veteran point guard Jarrett Jack to Sacramento in exchange for Jason Thompson.
But sources stressed Wednesday night that the Cavs would likely go ahead with the trade only if they could find a third team willing to absorb Thompson's contract, which runs for two more guaranteed seasons after this one at nearly $12.5 million.
And that's why this deal had to be classified as a maybe entering the final 15 hours of trade season before the league's 3 p.m. ET buzzer.
ESPN.com reported Monday that the Kings were right there with the Brooklyn Nets at the front of the line for Jack, who has two guaranteed seasons left on his contract after this one valued at $12.6 million.
The Nets, though, ultimately decided to abandon their Jack pursuit when the Cavs told them they would only make the trade if they could find a third team willing to absorb the contract of Jason Terry. When Cleveland couldn't, Brooklyn would end up combining on the week's first transaction Wednesday with those same Sacramento Kings, sending Terry and Reggie Evans to the California capital in exchange for scoring guard Marcus Thornton.
The Nets (24-27) emerged from the All-Star break sitting 3½ games behind the Atlantic Division-leading Toronto Raptors and want to upgrade their bench and backcourt.
Jack, 30, is averaging just 8.5 points on 39.7 percent shooting in 25 minutes a game in his first season with the Cavs after a strong 2012-13 season in Golden State.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Nets, eager to add a proven ball handler and backcourt scorer to their bench rotation, are willing to take on the two remaining guaranteed seasons worth in excess of $12 million left on Jack's contract despite the luxury-tax implications.
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Sources told ESPN.com this week that the Cavs have interest in trying to recruit Bartelstein into their management structure as other teams have done in recent years, most notably the Phoenix Suns' hiring of Lon Babby and the Golden State Warriors' hiring of Bob Myers.
The Cavs, though, are not expected to pursue significant changes to their basketball department until after the season. And it's believed within the industry that they would have little hope convincing Bartelstein to leave Chicago-based Priority Sports, which he founded and which represents numerous NFL players in addition to his basketball clientele.
In the wake of last week's dismissal of Chris Grant, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert elevated the widely respected David Griffin to acting general manager and have entrusted him with heading up their rest-of-the-season dealings.
Griffin was a key member of the Phoenix front office that kept the Suns among the Western Conference elite for several seasons after the signing of Steve Nash in 2004. He wound up rejecting GM offers from both the Memphis Grizzlies and Denver Nuggets before finally leaving the Suns in 2010 to join the Cavs to work for Chris Grant, whose three-year tenure in charge ended last Thursday.
It's believed Griffin is hoping to carve out his own shot at keeping the job full-time, with next Thursday's trade deadline presenting an immediate opportunity to make an impression on Gilbert, who entered this season essentially guaranteeing that Cavs were playoff-bound.
Cleveland, though, has managed to win its first four games in the wake of Grant's dismissal after a dreadful 16-33 start to climb back into the Eastern Conference playoff race. And the Cavs are expected to be active in advance of the deadline to potentially strengthen their roster for the stretch run.
He didn't have a summer league, or even a fall, to properly prepare for his first NBA season because of a serious shoulder injury.
And he never asked to be taken No. 1 overall in a draft that, weak as it looked beforehand and is proving to be now, had none of the experts projecting him to be the top pick.
Maybe we all should be cutting Anthony Bennett just a bit more slack.
Bennett's unsightly rookie season took another hit Thursday when the Cleveland Cavaliers abruptly fired general manager Chris Grant, who was responsible for drafting the UNLV freshman ahead of, say, Nerlens Noel or Victor Oladipo. And one of the reflex reactions, in the aftermath of the news, was that Bennett's Year 1 struggles sealed Grant's fate.
Grant lost his job midseason because Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, after guaranteeing his team would not be back on the lottery dais in 2014, felt he had to make some sort of statement/big change in the wake of Cleveland's humiliating home loss to the most depleted team that the Los Angeles Lakers have ever fielded.
So Gilbert naturally fired the executive with the expiring contract and the poor draft record as opposed to the coach who's in Year 1 of a whopping five-year deal.
Yet what happened against the Lakers was merely the low point after months and months of disarray and dysfunction. Kyrie Irving's star has lost a hard-to-believe amount of gleam given how much praise he was generating as recently as last July at a Team USA minicamp in Las Vegas. Dion Waiters' reputation for coachability, and as a teammate, is worse yet. And the general toxicity in the air around this team -- where rumblings of player discontent with Mike Brown are getting louder by the day -- makes you wonder if they have any hope of re-signing newly acquired (and shell-shocked) Luol Deng in free agency.
That's right: What was supposed to be a season exciting enough to make LeBron James think seriously about leaving Miami to come back to the Cavs has descended into such farce that sources close to the situation are already saying that there's little-to-no chance Deng will agree to stay once he hits free agency.
So let's just say that the work environment for Bennett's leap into a spotlight typically reserved for the more NBA-ready Kyries and Anthony Davises hasn't exactly been nurturing.
The kid certainly shouldn't get a completely free pass. Not after you miss your first 16 shots as a pro and still have a stat line in February that doesn't come close to Kwame Brown's rookie numbers. He has plenty of work to do that only he can tackle, as our own David Thorpe neatly explains in his Bennett take Friday, starting with shedding even more weight than he's managed to lose.
But the Cavs, until recently, haven't committed to making sure Bennett gets the no-matter-what minutes he needs -- at power forward -- to transition to the NBA game and rebuild his confidence. With Gilbert's postseason pipe dreams slipping away even in the easy East and Brown making no impact on this team defensively when that's his supposed specialty, they would be wise to realize that salvaging something from Bennett's rookie season should be one of the priorities from here.
Cleveland has amazingly landed the No. 1 overall pick twice since LeBron's departure. Focusing on getting to something resembling a good place with both Irving and Bennett, over the season's final 33 games, thus strikes me as a far more reasonable (and advisable) goal than worrying about the owner's ill-advised playoff guarantee.
By more than just a bit.
Western Conference scout on the Cavs’ acquisition of Luol Deng:
“People want to say that the Cavs are one of the biggest disappointments [of the season], but this is a talented group. And Deng brings a consistency and a level of professionalism that they haven’t had for a while. Let’s see if it rubs off.
“I’m a huge [Anderson] Varejao fan, too. You put him with Deng and you finally have a couple guys that want to defend. They’re all still learning how to play together -- I don’t think we know yet how all these personalities will mesh -- but they need to put a lot more into defending collectively than they have up 'til now. Which is unusual to say about a Mike Brown team.
“I thought they laid down [as a team] several times pre-Deng. And it really surprised me that they didn’t rally around [Andrew] Bynum quitting on them, because I think most teams would have tried to use that as a rallying point. But Deng ... I don’t care how much [Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau] played him these last few years. It’s just in his nature to play hard all the time.
“Kyrie Irving is an unbelievable talent -- and I think [Dion] Waiters wants to be Kyrie Irving -- but those young guys need to see [Deng in action] and learn how to approach the game like he does."
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Sources said Utah Jazz veteran swingman Richard Jefferson has emerged as a new trade target for the Cavaliers after ongoing talks with the Los Angeles Lakers on a deal centered around the swap of former teammates Pau Gasol and Bynum remained at an impasse Friday.
A deal with Utah that would send Jefferson to Cleveland and likewise allow the Jazz to acquire and waive Bynum before the other half of his $12.3 million salary this season becomes guaranteed is one of three primary options for the Cavaliers. The other two, sources said Friday, are continuing talks with the Lakers this weekend in hopes of hashing out trade terms both teams can stomach, or electing to keep Bynum beyond Tuesday's deadline and then reshopping him as a trade asset before the Feb. 20 trade deadline, or, if necessary, again in late June and early July.
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Which is a handy cue to remind us that the Orlando Magic possess the same sort of trade chip with Hedo Turkoglu and his similarly structured deal.
In both cases, only half of Bynum and Turkoglu's respective $12 million expiring contracts are guaranteed this season. Any team employing either player on Jan. 7 can thus save $6 million in salary -- and potentially more depending on where they are luxury-tax wise -- by releasing Bynum or Turkoglu in time to ensure they clear waivers before Jan. 10.
Yet there is one big difference between the Bynum and Turkoglu situations.
The Cavaliers, despite their disastrous 10-21 start, still have playoff aspirations in the Leastern Conference. So they appear to be willing to add some salary in a Bynum trade if they can land a difference-making asset, as evidenced by Cleveland's recent trade talks with the Los Angeles Lakers to acquire $19.3 million man Pau Gasol.
Orlando is not in the same place. Although the Magic decided to keep Turkoglu on their roster through Jan. 7 just in case a trade of some sort materialized in which his contract was needed, they're not chasing the likes of Gasol in support of a playoff push, which makes a trade even trickier for Orlando than it is for the Cavs to find a workable Bynum deal.
I'm told Turkoglu, incidentally, remains determined to relaunch his NBA career later this month when he is finally waived by the Magic or any other team that happens to trade for him in the next five days. The 34-year-old will become a free agent Jan. 10 after clearing waivers and has been working out on his own away from the team all season after Turkoglu and the Magic mutually agreed that he would not join the rest of the squad while they tried to find him a new home.
One source close to Turkoglu told ESPN.com this week that he remains confident he can still make an NBA contribution and badly wants the chance to show it after the rebuilding Magic decided that the 13-year veteran didn't fit in with a rebuilding program.