Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (Aug. 15) -- How LeBron James' future is affecting Kyrie Irving trade talks Staff

This morning’s headlines:

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Report: Teams pursuing Irving wait on James’ plans for future — When, where (and, of course, if) Kyrie Irving is traded from the Cavs is anyone’s guess. As with any trade, though, what the Cavs get in return will affect the team’s future and, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports, perhaps whether or not LeBron James decides to stick around in free agency this summer:

Cleveland isn’t giving up on the possibility of re-signing James next summer, but it is no longer investing blind faith in the hope he will stay. For James, a reluctance to commit comes with an emerging set of complications. Beyond Irving’s decision to ask for a trade, Cleveland has determined that it’s unwilling to simply be reactive to James’ possible departure.

Of course, Cavaliers officials prefer to re-sign James to a long-term deal and chase titles together into his twilight, but the Cavs are treating his unwillingness to commit as a call to protect themselves long term in the Irving trade, league sources said.

Owner Dan Gilbert and general manager Koby Altman want James to commit before building around him, and James largely wants to see the Cavaliers execute a plan before committing to them.

The process of building out the franchise’s roster long term has accelerated with Irving’s trade request. The Cavaliers have witnessed James’ exit strategy twice — once to leave Cleveland and once to return — and the Irving trade request has left them unwilling to squander the opportunity to replenish young assets on a roster that could be crippled in a post-James Cavaliers era that is stocked with high-priced veterans.

The Cavaliers find themselves far more fixated on a young star, including New York’s Kristaps Porzingis, Boston’s Jayson Tatum, Phoenix’s Josh Jackson and Denver’s Jamal Murray, league sources told ESPN.

Cleveland is determined to get an elite young player for Irving, which means this: The trade plan the Cavaliers would have prioritized, with James committed for the long term — veterans to surround James and draft picks — isn’t in motion. If the Cavaliers knew they had James committed, for example, San Antonio could emerge as a more intriguing trade partner. The Spurs have interest in Irving, league sources say, and Irving’s willingness to commit to an extension with the Spurs makes for legitimate win-now deal possibilities for Cleveland. Without James beyond next season, though, the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge, Tony Parkerand Danny Green hold no appeal.

Boston has expressed interest in Irving and could offer the best combination of short-term (Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder) and long-term (Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, picks) assets. The Celtics have made no formal offer, and it is against Boston’s front-office DNA to push out front with the most generous offer. Boston knows that Cleveland is mostly intrigued with Tatum, but the sides have not formally discussed that deal, league sources said.

This Irving trade process has been deliberate, and teams believe the Cavaliers expect more aggressive conversations in September, closer to the start of training camps. Porzingis has emerged as a primary Cleveland target, but that’s a conversation that can occur only with Cleveland’s willingness to unburden the Knicks of the three years and $55 million left on Joakim Noah’s contract. For now, the conversation is a nonstarter for the Knicks, league sources said.

For the right All-Star player, though — Irving or otherwise — multiple NBA teams are seriously questioning how emphatic of a “no” that will stay for New York. There continues to be distance between Porzingis and the organization, and how the Knicks truly value Porzingis’ future could become clearer once they’re together to begin the season.

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Friedkin interested in purchasing Rockets — The Houston Rockets are still up for sale and the list of potential buyers has recently included team legend Hakeem Olajuwon to recording artist Beyonce. Add another name to the mix: billionaire Dan Friedkin, who confirmed his interest in wanting to buy the team to Mark Berman of Fox 26 in Houston:

Houston billionaire Dan Friedkin, owner and CEO of Gulf States Toyota and the president and CEO of the Friedkin Group, acknowledged in a statement released to FOX 26 Sports that he is interested in buying the Houston Rockets franchise.

“I’ve expressed interest in exploring the purchase of the Houston Rockets,” Friedkin said in a statement released by his company.

“Les Alexander has done an outstanding job building a high caliber organization with a winning tradition. Over the years we have enjoyed a close partnership with the Rockets and Les through Toyota’s naming rights of the arena.

“As a Rockets fan and Houstonian it would be exciting and a privilege to build on the storied legacy of NBA basketball in this city.”

Forbes lists Friedkin’s net worth at $3.1 billion.

Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta expressed interest in buying the Rockets franchise when the team was put on the market, but has said nothing since.

Forbes lists Fertitta’s net worth at $3 billion.

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Van Gundy: Luxury tax won’t keep Pistons from re-signing Bradley — Detroit is more or less returning the same roster it sported in 2016-17 for the upcoming season, but with one notable exception. The Pistons traded for defensive stopper Avery Bradley this summer and are hoping he can both improve their defense (which ranked 11th in Defensive Rating) and sign a long-term deal with the team, too. Per, coach Stan Van Gundy isn’t worried about that latter point — even if it means entering the luxury tax:

Chances are probably better that they retain Avery Bradley next summer even though Bradley will hit July 1 completely unfettered as an unrestricted free agent. The Pistons will have relatively minor advantages as the home team, able to offer Bradley an extra year on his contract and higher annual raises.

But at least there will be equal motivation on either side to negotiate immediately when free agency opens at 12:01 a.m. next July 1. In the Caldwell-Pope case, the Pistons made an offer and waited to hear back – and, from all indications, never did.

The Caldwell-Pope side went about soliciting an offer sheet from another team that never came. It appears their strategy was to use other teams to negotiate a contract with the Pistons. As options dried up around them and the Pistons were presented an opportunity to trade for Bradley, they checked back on Caldwell-Pope one last time before jumping on Boston’s offer before the Celtics pivoted – and effectively ended the Caldwell-Pope pursuit.

So 82 games are a lifetime, but it’s not likely Bradley is going to fundamentally change who he is after seven years in the league building a reputation as one of the league’s elite perimeter defenders who’s shot above 35 percent from the 3-point arc in four straight seasons and above 39 percent in two of them.

Just as Van Gundy had the word of Pistons owner Tom Gores that it was OK to wade into luxury tax territory to retain Caldwell-Pope, he expects the same marching orders next summer to keep Bradley.

“In the right situation for the right people, Tom’s more than willing to pay the tax,” Van Gundy said. “I think about half the league’s going to be paying the tax this year. Tom’s not opposed to that.”

“We’ve got other strategies,” Van Gundy said. “The finances will not inhibit our ability to re-sign Avery at whatever it takes. If we’re in a situation where we want Avery back and Avery wants to be here, we’ll be able to bring him back.”

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