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Revamped Cavaliers begin the business of making it all fit

POSTED: Sep 29, 2014 12:04 PM ET

By David Aldridge

BY David Aldridge

TNT Analyst

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LeBron James is back in Cleveland -- and flanked by a little more talent than the last time he was there.

— There were men with puppets on the Cleveland Cavaliers' practice court Friday.

Most certainly, the circus was back in town.

One guy decides to move, and they have to put up a tent on the lawn outside the Cavaliers' practice facility to handle all the media credentials, and use the parking lot of a nearby steakhouse as an auxiliary lot. They have reporters from China and a set built by the Four-Letter Network, and the poor guy who wrote an infamous book about The Chosen One a few years ago can't get in.

By "Chosen One," of course, I speak of Brendan Haywood.

Meanwhile, some other guy named LeBron James walked around, in the home wine and gold, as the hearts fluttered again in Cleveland, seven miles down the road.

The Indians just missed the playoffs, and the Browns have Johnny Manziel (aka "Johnny Football"), but they both now are dwarfed in this town, with the most anticipated reunion this side of Forrest Gump getting back together with his Jenny about to play out nightly at Quicken Loans Arena. The burned jerseys and bitter words of four years ago are now forgotten.

Media Day: East Pecking Order?

Grant Hill and Isiah Thomas discuss whether the Cavs or Bulls have a better shot at winning the East.

"I had a lot of people in my ear, telling me to leave Cleveland," said forward/center Anderson Varejao, by far the longest tenured player on the roster. "That Cleveland was done, that LeBron was never coming back. I heard all of that."

But James, with all the expectations and dreams he brings, is back. This time, he isn't playing with Daniel "Boobie" Gibson, Devin Brown and Sasha Pavlovic. James left for four years and, while he was making four straight Finals appearances (winning two titles) in Miami, Cleveland had time to build a treasure chest full of assets.

All that losing begat Kyrie Irving, whose game was ascendant enough. Despite occasional grumbling from former coach Mike Brown about Irving's disposition for USA Basketball a year ago, the young point guard was a star on the 2014 FIBA World Cup team -- a coronation made more dramatic when Kevin Durant backed out, needing the summer off (presumably to build up enough arm strength to take home all that new Nike money).

Even though the Cavs didn't make the playoffs in his first three seasons, the two-time All-Star Irving was good enough to make James take coming home seriously. And that promise was good enough for the Cavs to move two No. 1 overall picks to Minnesota in a package for All-Star forward Kevin Love.

The usual coterie of veterans (Mike Miller, Shawn Marion, James Jones) followed, with new coach David Blatt tasked with how to make it all work. Doing so by Oct. 30, when the Knicks come to town on opening night, would be fine, thanks.

Media Day: LeBron James

LeBron James addresses the press at the Cavaliers' 2014 media day event.

James looked worn down on Friday, perking up only when asked to explain his decision to leave Miami and come back to Akron and Cleveland (and it is in that order, and always will be) to his two sons, now old enough to begin to understand concepts like homesickness.

"I asked them first," James said. "I didn't explain it to them; they explained it to me. I was like, 'What do you think of Daddy going back home to play?' They was like, 'Back home? You talking about Cleveland?' I was like, 'Yeah.' They was like, 'OK, you can play with Kyrie Irving?' I was like, 'Yeah.' They was like, 'We get to go back home to our house, I get to go back to my old school and my old friends?' I was like, 'Yeah.' And they was like, 'OK, you can do it.'"

James is going out of his way to talk about how the Cavs are Irving's team and that he's never played with a point guard so dynamic. But Irving knows it is he that has the adjusting to do, from a team that has any number of vets from which to borrow knowledge.

"I'm OK with it," Irving said. "Learning from Mike -- other than the one-shoe thing last year in The Finals -- I can learn a lot." (Miller was sitting next to him as he said this, in case you didn't realize Irving was kidding.)

Irving's MVP play on the FIBA World Cup team is a reasonable facsimile of how things may go in Cleveland. Playing with talented teammates who had to be guarded, Irving got to the cup at will, or threw alley-oops to Anthony Davis or Kenneth Faried, but was able to conserve enough energy to also be able to attack on defense ("He was picking up 94 feet," Marion noted, approvingly).

Media Day: Miller and Irving

Mike Miller and Kyrie Irving talk with David Aldridge about playing with LeBron James this season.

The notion of Irving having James in transition or Love on the weakside, or Irving having space to break down opposing guards in endless screen-and-rolls ... how do you stop that?

"So much space," Irving said. "That's what you dream of as a guard. Everyone has to guard someone now when they play us."

Miller was also a key hinge in James' decision to bolt South Beach. His absence, which came after the Heat opted to amnesty him after the 2012-13 season and reap some financial savings, created a roster imbalance for Miami last season. The Heat never did find someone who could give them quality minutes at that swing position playing behind Dwyane Wade and James. Ray Allen's 3-point shooting dipped noticeably last season and Roger Mason, Jr. was traded to Sacramento in February.

More ominously for the Heat, James was irked that a key member of the title teams -- and one of his closer friends on the team -- was jettisoned. Again: It's not why James left. But it didn't help.

"Honestly, I didn't know LeBron was leaving until he left," Jones said. "And that was by design on his part, because wanted to make that decision by himself, without any influence or any pull. And so, as a teammate, as a friend, I kind of respected that, and was kind of glad I wasn't a part of that. That was a decision he has to live with."

And once he decided to return to Cleveland, the Cavs knew adding Miller was a priority.

"Obviously, for us, winning makes any relationship good," Miller said. "We had a lot of great experiences, a lot of fun. I don't know if my absence was why they lost; San Antonio was pretty good last year. But obviously him being here, and me being a part of it, with the talent that they already have here with this base that Cleveland's built, there's a lot of excitement moving forward."

Media Day: How Far Can LeBron Lead Cleveland

Grant Hill and Isiah Thomas discuss how far can LeBron James lead the Cavaliers into the playoffs.

Love can be used any number of ways with his skill set. He wasn't in the post all the time in Minnesota, but he could well be there a lot in Cleveland -- and often to create looks on the weakside for Irving or Miller. (Love's 4.4 assists per game last season were the most in his career.)

"We're gonna lift Kevin, and allow him to see a spaced floor," Blatt said. "Obviously, with his shooting ability, it's gonna force people to come out and challenge him, and that's going to make it easier for cutters and players to move with purpose -- the idea being if I do the right thing, I'm gonna get the ball."

Love had to wear a lot of hats in Minnesota, not only the pressures of being the best player, but having to be the disciplinarian/enforcer, who would get after guys (J.J. Barea was a frequent target) who weren't doing what he expected. With James (and, to a lesser extent, Marion) around, that won't solely be Love's responsibility anymore.

"It really says something and makes a big impact to have veterans on your team," Love said. "I'm only heading into my seventh year at [age] 26. It's going to make a big impact on the younger guys, as I mentioned previously. I think it definitely helps to create the culture and get a certain synergy and a continuity throughout the entire lineup and the entire organization."

The only question remains whether Cleveland can excel defensively the way it surely will on offense. Varejao can certainly handle the paint, but where will the perimeter defense come from other than James?

"We do have players who have the basketball IQ to allow us to do some different things defensively," Blatt said. "And we do have some individual defenders who can limit their man and force the other team to do things maybe outside of their normal game plan. [But] we have to be good as a team defensively. I don't think we're overly blessed with great one-on-one defenders."

Blatt didn't want to give things away on media day, but he played a lot of zone during his various coaching stops around the world. Given the Cavs' lack of defensive stalwarts (about all Blatt can count on currently from the likes of Dion Waiters is a pledge to be a more active help side defender), zone will likely be in his trick bag in Cleveland.

The Cavs do have length in James, Marion, Tristan Thompson and Varejao and could use them on the floor for stretches. But that group probably wouldn't log major minutes together given the likely cloggy-ness (is that a word?) that lineup would create on offense.

Blatt surrounded himself with a first-rate staff, with the Cavs spending major bank to bring Tyronn Lue in from the Clippers as associate head coach, adding ex-NBA coaches Larry Drew (Milwaukee last season) and Jim Boylan (Milwaukee, 2012-13) and retaining Bret Brielmaier and Phil Handy from Brown's staff.

James Posey, an NBA veteran who spent last season on the staff of the NBA D-League's Canton Charge, is also joining the bench. (Another recent NBA vet, Raja Bell, was hired by GM David Griffin to learn the ins and outs of the front office as well.)

Blatt allowed that there will be a learning curve for him coming from Europe, where he won in places he wasn't expected to, and pulled no punches.

"The biggest thing for me is to be myself," Blatt said, "to go in here and coach the way that I know it, utilize the knowledge, depth and experience that my coaching staff brings to the table. We did work very hard and very successfully in bringing in here some great basketball minds and basketball coaches.

"But the biggest thing for me is to coach the game the way that I see it, to believe in my way of doing things, and to teach my players the how and the why of the way in which we're going to play. I think if you know the material, and you know how to deliver it, the players buy into it."

Griffin even ensured future flexibility going forward by acquiring Haywood and his non-guaranteed contract ($10.5 million if waived by next August), which could be part of a deal to bring in still more talent by the trade deadline -- or just to use to create more room to re-sign Love next summer.

But there's no guarantee of immediate success. It will take time to develop chemistry, even with all this talent. A city that's waited 50 years for a champion, though, can wait a few more months. Assuredly, its winter nights are now likely to feel a lot different than they could have dreamed just months ago.

They can, again, dream the biggest dreams.

"When I got to Cleveland, after my first, second year, Eric Snow told me that when he got to the league, the first year he went to the NBA Finals, and he thought he was going to be there every year," Varejao said.

"Then, when he told me, it was like, 'OK, maybe it may be true when you are young. And I had the same feeling after LeBron left. I had the feeling like, 'Am I going to get there again?' We are doing everything right here; we are going through the rebuilding process. We are getting the best players we can. But we're not making the playoffs. So I had my doubts about it. But now, having the chance to win again, and knowing that it's real, we have a chance, I'm excited. I can't wait to get started."

DRIBBLES

Reggie Jackson is at the plate. (Been waiting years to dust off that old tripe.)

The Reggie to whom I refer, of course, is the Thunder's 24-year-old point guard, not the Oakland A's/Baltimore Orioles/New York Yankees Hall of Fame slugger. This Jackson, being a Class of 2011 draftee, is eligible for a contract extension if he and OKC can come to terms on a new deal before the Oct. 31 deadline. So far, only Kyrie Irving has gotten a new deal out of that class -- the $90 million max he received from the Cavaliers this summer.

Float It In

Reggie Jackson goes around the screen and hits the floater in the lane.

Players from that class have played three NBA seasons, and their clubs have already picked up their fourth-year options. They are thus eligible for an extension that would begin after the 2014-15 season, and can go for as long as five years if the team has not yet used its "designated player" spot.

Each team can extend one player off a rookie contract for up to five years; all other players can only get four-year extensions. If players on their rookie deals, like Jackson, don't reach agreement with their teams on an extension, they'll become restricted free agents at the end of next season. But, their current teams can match any offer another team makes to keep them.

Jackson has spent each of his first four seasons playing behind All-Star Russell Westbrook. That's not likely to change this season, even though Thabo Sefolosha's departure to Atlanta via free agency has opened up a starting guard spot. Jackson has made it clear he believes he's a starting point guard and wants to run his own show. But the Thunder view him as a catalyst coming off the bench with their younger reserves.

Complicating matters is the five-year, $70 million deal Phoenix gave guard Eric Bledsoe last week. Like Jackson, Bledsoe backed up a star early in his career (serving as a two-season caddy for Chris Paul). He had a great first season as a starter for the Suns after Phoenix acquired him from the Clippers last summer.

Jackson has also played well when injuries to Westbrook put him in the starting lineup. And the Thunder view him as a core member of the team. But that doesn't mean the two sides will agree on a number before Halloween.

"If it doesn't happen, all that means is it hasn't happened yet," Thunder general manager Sam Presti said as OKC's camp opened up Friday. "There has to be some perspective. We would love to do it early. Those are the rules that are built in, that you have a chance to do it in advance. But if not, we'll get back at it July 1st and try to hammer it out."

It's still very early in the process. A number of extensions in recent years, as often happens, have occurred at the 11th hour. "Call me in two weeks," the agent for one of the 2011 players in line for a deal texted Sunday.

As has been noted here frequently, the number of Draft class extensions has been steadily falling for several years, from a high of 16 players for the Class of 2002, to the five that got extensions from the Class of 2007, led by Kevin Durant's deal.

The Class of 2010 got six extensions, with John Wall (No. 1 overall), DeMarcus Cousins (No. 5 overall) and Paul George (10th) getting max deals from the Wizards, Kings and Pacers, respectively. Milwaukee gave Larry Sanders a four-year, $44 million extension. Memphis' Quincy Pondexter (taken 26th by OKC) got a four-year, $14 million deal last October.

Technically, Bledsoe, taken 18th in the '10 Draft, didn't get an extension from the Suns; he was a restricted free agent. While there were murmurs that at least a couple of teams were willing to pay the max deal Bledsoe wanted, no team signed him to an offer sheet, obviously believing the Suns would match. But Phoenix finally moved up from its four-year, $48 million offer to Bledsoe that it had held to most of the summer.

1-on-1 with Reggie Jackson

Sekou Smith sits down for an in-depth one-on-one conversation with OKC Thunder star Reggie Jackson.

Other Class of 2010 members also got new deals this summer: Boston's Avery Bradley (four years, $28 million), Toronto's Patrick Patterson (three years, $18 million) and Greivis Vasquez (two years, $13 million).

But the Class of 2011 has a chance to reverse that trend, with several players whose performance could land them extensions and keep them from free agency.

Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, the 15th pick in 2011, is certainly in line for a major payday, as is Golden State's Klay Thompson (taken 11th overall). Denver has been working with forward Kenneth Faried (22nd overall) for a while, but Faried's case was bolstered with his outstanding play for the gold-medal winning U.S. men's team at the FIBA World Cup.

Toronto will have to make a call on center Jonas Valanciunas (fifth). The recent market for center deals has settled somewhere between $11 million per year (Sanders, Denver's JaVale McGee) and $12 million per year for veterans like Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Nikola Pekovic and Marcin Gortat (all of whom have gotten five-year, $60 million deals since 2010). The Raptors have extended several of their players, but none of them is making more than the $12 million Kyle Lowry will be getting starting this season.

Wing players likes Phoenix's Markieff Morris (13th in 2011) and Chicago's Jimmy Butler (30th) certainly will take note of the $63 million max deal the Jazz gave forward Gordon Hayward, matching the Hornets' offer sheet this past summer. [Editor's note: The Suns announced Monday that they have signed both Markieff and his brother Marcus Morris to extensions.] Other 2011 players who can make arguments to get extensions include Milwaukee's Brandon Knight (eighth), Charlotte's Kemba Walker (ninth), Orlando's Nikola Vucevic (16th) and Tobias Harris (19th), and New York's Iman Shumpert.

Every negotiation is unique, and Jackson's is no different. On a team that is already paying max deals to Durant and Westbrook, Jackson obviously won't get one from OKC. But his value to the Thunder is enormous.

He is, essentially, a sixth starter, who was just as effective last season running the point as Westbrook, who missed chunks of last season following his third knee operation in an 18-month period. Jackson started 36 games last season, and after the Thunder went 5-5 in his first 10 stars, OKC took off, playing its best basketball of the season.

Durant's scoring numbers, as could be expected, rose with Westbrook out, and he averaged an insane 40 points per game during OKC's 10-game win streak in January and February. But he became an even more efficient player without Westbrook, incorporating Jackson and Serge Ibaka in the halfcourt without missing a beat. And the Thunder went 15-2 in Jackson's last 17 starts before Westbrook's return.

But how much is continuity worth for an organization that has to manage Durant's and Westbrook's deals, as well as the $48 million deal for Ibaka, while putting capable role players around them?

The Thunder have planned to go into the luxury tax in the next few years after resisting as long as it could. But with other young players like guards Jeremy Lamb and Andre Roberson, center Steven Adams and rookie Mitch McGary all on their rookie deals for at least a couple more years, OKC has a little bit of maneuverability.

It's not a coincidence that Ibaka's contract fits right in where Kevin Martin's last-year salary of $13 million left off.

With Kendrick Perkins ($9.1 million) and Nick Collison ($2.2 million) each entering the final year of his deal, the Thunder have a way to get Jackson a deal similar to that of other young point guards like Lowry and Ty Lawson (four years, $48 million).

But there's no guarantee that will happen, or that Jackson would be amenable to those numbers, especially with Bledsoe's deal and a likely salary cap increase with the imminent new national television contract pushing future point guard numbers due north.

Presti has worked the system for five years to put a contender together. Now he has to game a new system designed to keep the very type of elite team he's put together from being able to remain together.

NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ...

What more should we expect from the NBA and the Charlotte Hornets in the wake of Jeffrey Taylor's arrest on alleged domestic violence charges in Michigan last week?

Taylor, the 25-year-old third-year forward, was accused of assaulting his girlfriend and a hotel employee last Thursday during an incident at a hotel in East Lansing, Mich. He was charged with one count each of domestic violence, assault and battery, and malicious destruction of a building. If convicted, he'd spend a year in jail. His next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 8.

The Hornets quickly announced that Taylor would be separated from the team immediately, and would be prohibited from taking part in any team activities, including the opening of training camp Tuesday, until his case is adjudicated. The Charlotte Observer reported that Taylor will still be paid during his absence.

The league quickly put out a press release Friday supporting the Hornets' decision, but the decision to shelve Taylor came from the team, with no input from the NBA. The league is conducting an investigation into Taylor's conduct and subsequent arrest.

It is the first domestic violence incident in the NBA since the withering criticism the NFL received for its handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence case and those of other players, some of whom are still playing while their cases go through the court system. And it is the first case on the watch of the National Basketball Players Association's new Executive Director, Michele Roberts.

The union issued a statement through Roberts' office on Friday.

"Jeffrey and his lawyers have determined that it is in Jeffrey's best interest to focus on resolving this matter as expeditiously as possible before returning to the team," the statement read. "We accept and support that decision. However, our expectation is that no disciplinary action should or would be taken by the team or the league going forward, prior to objective deliberation and full consideration of the facts in this matter."

The NBPA is in a delicate spot here, obviously. Certainly, Taylor has not been convicted of anything yet, and has the right to defend himself in court, assuming the case ultimately goes to trial. But the Rice situation has put a spotlight on the issue of domestic violence, focusing attention on how prevalent it is, with attention increasingly placed on the victims rather than the alleged perpetrators. No matter the circumstances involving this particular incident, or whether this is nothing like the Rice-Palmer incident, any significant pushback by the union defending Taylor could thus be viewed harshly.

And depending on the criminal justice system to determine whether the league punishes a player presents challenges. The system's backlog almost guarantees a long time before any kind of decision is made; if you allow the player to continue playing, as the San Francisco 49ers did with defensive lineman Ray McDonald, you run the risk of never addressing the situation. But if you keep a player away from the team, as Charlotte has done with Taylor, the player could miss a lot of the season for something that he may ultimately be cleared of doing.

In the meantime, both the NBA and union will get attention for how they handle this and future cases. Commissioner Adam Silver said last week that the league was taking a "fresh look" at its current policies regarding domestic violence.

Any player who is convicted of or pleads guilty or no contest to a violent felony (including domestic violence) now is suspended for a minimum of 10 games. If the league and NBPA concur that a player has engaged in violent off-court conduct (including domestic violence), the player has to undergo a clinical evaluation by a neutral expert. That expert may then recommend counseling. Any player convicted of or who pleads guilty or no contest to a crime involving violent conduct must attend a minimum five counseling sessions with a therapist or counselor jointly selected by the NBA and the union. The counseling sessions are in addition to any penalties imposed by the league for the violent conduct.

Another idea that is being looked at, though it's so nascent that it hasn't yet reached the discussion stage between the union and the league, is the development of a hotline that victims and potential domestic violence victims could use.

No one company can have all the right answers for how its employees behave away from work. But there have to be overarching programs in place so that those companies -- and sports leagues -- aren't just reacting to the latest incident.

"We have a pretty straightforward approach, suggested strategies for sports leagues," said Brian O'Connor, the Director of Public Education, Campaigns and Programs for Futures Without Violence. The California-based organization has worked for more than 30 years on domestic violence programs designed to reduce incidents against women, children and families.

O'Connor said the first step is for any league to "look internally, get your own house in order ... making sure that you're not just talking the talk, but walking the walk. As far as not just training and education -- how do we help build healthier relationships? How do we have conversations about healthy masculinity, and what that is?

"How do we make sure that the safety nets are in place for the players and the coaches, the trainers, everybody from top to bottom, everybody being part of the initiative on education and prevention. Making sure that when people see something that's not OK, they're speaking up about it.

"The second and third phases are kind of joined," O'Connor continued. "It's not just public education at the stadiums, or ways that you're engaging your sponsors and people that sell your merchandise, or trying to educate your fans. But also getting back and becoming more community based, with an eye on local programs as well. Having one specific to how we raise our men and women, investing in programs that goes not just to the customers and the broad base, but really trying to get at sustained social norm change with the next generation."

Futures Without Violence developed Coaching Boys Into Men, which tries to reach teenage boys playing sports through their coaches and teach them proper behavior towards girls and young women, and to reduce incidents of harassment, sexual assault and other violent acts.

The one positive thing incidents such as Taylor's can do is keep a spotlight on the issue.

"Domestic violence and abuse is not the situation of they're in a bad relationship, or they're just quarreling," O'Connor said. "It's a crime. It just really comes down to respect. I think when people saw it as well, you can't just explain it away that this is a private matter and this is none of our business ... from the work we do in prevention, I think there's lasting effects when we're able to move this conversation from the back page to the front page.

"People having conversations and being educated on what DV is, and some of the ways we can prevent it, I do think donations go up. Foundations and various programs are then instituted as well, to the point where people understand that this is an important issue that they should care about."

Information and education, properly distributed, can have a positive effect. With the implementation of programs like the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, along with education and other prevention programs, domestic violence has decreased significantly nationwide during the last two decades. Data from the Department of Justice in 2012 indicated a decrease of 64 percent in intimate partner violence from 1994-2010.

"At the same time," O'Connor said, "because it's so pervasive and far reaching -- it goes across all demographics and economic categories, it's in virtually every community in our country -- you're still talking about a lot of people."

But the biggest change has to come from men convincing other men that such behavior can't continue.

"I've certainly seen a shift part in responses by men, who've really come out talking about how this behavior is unacceptable," O'Connor said. "My colleagues who've been around a lot longer have talked about how, 20 years ago, this wouldn't have made the headlines that it has now. The unfortunate piece is if you take the Ray Rice incident specifically, the conversation is, why did it take the second video for action to be done?"

... AND NOBODY ASKED YOU, EITHER

Repeating, our top story tonight. From Lee Cheatham:

Media Day: Will The Spurs Repeat?

The guys discuss if the Spurs will repeat as champions for the first time in franchise history.

As we're standing on the edge of the horizon of the 2014 NBA training camp, I had an epiphany that this is going to be a very compelling season for the San Antonio Spurs. I've been an avid Spurs aficionado since the 1999 team of Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Avery Johnson, Sean Elliott et al defeated the Knicks to capture their first of five championships. Their prolonged success of excelling on the basketball court with Duncan as the foundation has truly been remarkable.

However, there's one accomplishment that has evaded the franchise in their storied history: a repeat. Duncan and Ginobili are 38 and 37, respectively, and both are entering the final years of their contracts. Even with five championships under his belt and a plethora of first-ballot Hall of Fame credentials, I surmise Duncan will revel in the opportunity to defend his crown. A 2015 title would thrust him into the pantheon of superstars who have achieved this rare feat: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Hakeem Olajuwon, LeBron James, Isiah Thomas and so forth. Duncan's legacy will leave an indelible mark on the Spurs' franchise for eternity even if he walks away next year sans a repeat.

Do you think the Spurs will be complacent during the season, or can the eminent mastermind of Gregg Popovich muster up enough motivation to his players to have the same focus and determination to repeat?

Well, Pop shot down the whole "we're motivated by repeating" thing on day one, Lee -- although I believe that he may be being too clever by half on that. No, there will be no exhortations in the team's meeting rooms or in the locker room about "legacy" or anything like that. But I'm sure that among the varying topics that Popovich has brought up to Duncan, Ginobili and Tony Parker this summer was using the idea of a repeat as part of their mental skeleton as they prepare to lead the 2014-15 team. (Not to mention the notion that a sixth title for Duncan would pull him one ring ahead of Kobe Bryant, and alongside Jordan.) Like all great champions, though, the Spurs are motivated by winning in the moment, rather than for history's sake. The greatest winners are the greediest ones; they want to win, year after year, regardless of circumstance.

Sans Solo. From Matt Medina:

I am an avid reader of the Morning Tip, in fact it's the one thing I look forward to on Mondays. I'd like to get your take on Hope Solo and the domestic violence case nobody is talking about. There are definitely arguments about the difference between NFL and NBA players attacking women and children and a women's soccer star attacking her nephew and sister. (The former in my opinion is much worse as the men in those situations are usually much larger and more intimidating than the victims) I very much believe the NFL and NBA need to educate young men on better ways to handle frustration and also to handle domestic violence cases better than what they have in the past. The NFL may have screwed up on the Ray Rice and Adrian Petersen cases, but at least they tried to fix it after the fact. The USA Women's Soccer team is letting Solo play despite the ongoing legal proceedings regarding her hitting her sister and minor-aged nephew just so she can keep alive her record of shutouts. I believe USA Women's Soccer needs to take a page from the NFL and NBA and not let Solo play until her situation is resolved. What do you think?

Hope Solo shouldn't play for the U.S. team while her case is being adjudicated. Period. Having said that, I hesitate to offer more, because I fear doing so would lead to debate about the "double standard" of not treating Solo's case the same as we have the recent cases in the NFL. And that is a strawman, a false equivalency that reduces the impact of domestic violence to pageviews. (Think about it: Do you ever hear men complaining about lack of media coverage of women's sports, other than in this context?) One wonders what those companies who have sponsorship deals with Solo will and should do, but that is a different topic than the question of whether her case is getting enough coverage.

Send your questions, comments, criticisms and construction paper for the Mighty Mites' next banner, instead of vinyl to daldridgetnt@gmail.com. If your e-mail is sufficiently funny, thought-provoking, well-written or snarky, we just might publish it!

BY THE NUMBERS

10 -- Years since the Minnesota Timberwolves made the playoffs, the longest current streak in the league. Listing the longest playoff droughts in sports came up as baseball's Kansas City Royals clinched a postseason berth on Friday, ending their streak of 29 yearssince their last postseason appearance. The Royals won Game 7 of the 1985 World Series (after winning Game 6, known in St. Louis as the "Denkinger Screwjob") on Oct. 27, 1985. On that date, LeBron James was not quite 10 months old.

3 -- Teams that Keith Bogans has played for in the past week. On Wednesday, the veteran guard was a Celtic, though he was there in name only, having been allowed to leave the team last January after he didn't want to be part of Boston's long rebuilding process. On Thursday, the Celtics traded Bogans to Cleveland for four non-guaranteed contracts and two second-rounders. But on Saturday, Cleveland flipped Bogans, along with a 2018 second-round pick, to Philadelphia for a 2015 second rounder. Of course, Bogans' main value these days for teams is the $5.3 million non-guaranteed contract he has for the 2014-15 season. Dealing Bogans gives the Cavs a trade exception for that amount -- just short of the first-year salary in a mid-level exception -- for the next year.

$1,200,000 -- Annual salary that new National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Michele Roberts will receive, according to Bloomberg. Her predecessor, Billy Hunter, was making $3 million a year in his last contract before he was fired by the union two years ago.

I'M FEELIN' ...

1) Glad to hear that the Nets worked out a buyout with Lawrence Frank, which will free him to join coach Doc Rivers as an assistant with the Clippers. Sometimes, things just don't work out, you know? Don't expect either side to talk about how much of Frank's $6 million deal he returned to Brooklyn, as there is the standard non-disclosure language under penalty of forfeiting the loot for both sides.

Media Day:Life Without LeBron

The guys discuss the Heat's future without LeBron James.

2) No one loses the best player in the league and isn't devastated, both on and off the court. But I have a feeling that the Heat are going to be better than people think. Too many tough-minded people in that building, and too many good additions like Luol Deng and Josh McRoberts for the whole thing to fall apart.

3) A few words will now follow about Derek Jeter, whose last game in Yankee Stadium Thursday will be the stuff of lore for generations. It seems that baseball aficionados, who always look to stats to answer any question of substance about a player's worth, are making an exception for the Yankees' longtime captain. He has never led baseball in any significant statistical category during his two decades at shortstop in the Bronx, yet the hagiography surrounding his career and final season there has continued unabated for months. I get it. He played with dignity and, earlier in his career, an incredible flair for the dramatic, as he led the Yankees to five World Series championships. But hagiography remains hagiography, and one cannot shake the fact that if Jeter played for, say, the Cincinnati Reds, with the exact same career numbers, we wouldn't be subject to the endless loops and commercials and tribute. But, again, I get it. By all accounts, there have been few who played with as much grace and class, and who understood one can demand privacy and space without being ugly about it. You have earned your rest, sir.

4) This is a great ad. Bravo, Anheuser-Busch.

NOT FEELIN' ...

1) Very bad news on Rajon Rondo breaking his hand, which will only complicate the Celtics' process of determining how to proceed with the Mercurial One. Both owner Wyc Grousbeck and GM Danny Ainge continue to insist the Celts' desire is to add a player to play with Rondo in Boston, not to trade him elsewhere for assets. (My desire is to date supermodels, but, again, my wife won't let me.)

Caldwell Jones Dies At 64

The NBA TV family mourns the loss of former NBA player Caldwell Jones who died at the age of 64. He played three ABA seasons and then 14 in the NBA with the 76ers, Rockets, Bulls, Trail Blazers and Spurs.

2) RIP, Caldwell Jones. I didn't cover the former 76ers' center, though I did cover his younger brother, Charles, for many years. Charles was a very quiet, private, hard-working guy who was limited offensively but gave a great effort at the defensive end every night. From what I understand, Caldwell was much the same way. Sorry for the loss for one of the great basketball families.

3) The Pelicans need to get off to a quick start to stay in contact in the ultra-tough West, and losing Tyreke Evans for an extended period of time is not going to help, with Dallas, Memphis, Charlotte, San Antonio and Cleveland following New Orleans' opener against Orlando.

4) Not the way Tom Watson designed it.

TWEET OF THE WEEK

No worries pop only one glass of wine and daily workouts!
-- Spurs forward Boris Diaw (@theborisdiaw), Sunday, 1:18 p.m. Diaw, whose condition coming into camp is the stuff of friendly wager in San Antonio (Gregg Popovich joked that the over-under for Diaw's weight is in the neighborhood of 275), and who was excused from the first week of camp in Texas after playing for France in the World Cup, added an Instagram photo detailing his rigorous regimen.

THEY SAID IT

"You go through toddler, you become an infant, child, and then your adolescence and then your young adult life, and then your parenting life, when you're a husband or father, career, all that stuff. And then when you get to a certain age, you hope you have some wisdom, and you can give back what you've accumulated over a lifetime. It's time to do that. And my fiancée, Jeanie Buss, has been whacking away at me for a while about, 'you're just kinda sitting on a lot of information.' "
-- Phil Jackson, in a Q & A with the New York Post, on why he decided to take on the Knicks' president job -- the pile of cash bigger than an elephant aside.

"Let's just say I learn from my mistakes."
-- Mark Cuban, finally acknowledging that not re-signing center Tyson Chandler after the Mavericks won the NBA title in 2011 was an error. Cuban has always said that the new CBA rules following the lockout made it impossible for him to bring the defending championship team back together.

"I've given him a clipboard to chart deflections and contested shots. We can't just let him sit around."
-- Pacers Coach Frank Vogel, detailing his upcoming plans for Paul George, who has begun his rehab with the team after his gruesome broken leg injury in July. George has been doing upper body work in the last six weeks, though he still needs crutches to get around.

Longtime NBA reporter and columnist David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.