Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (Dec. 3): LeBron says 'honeymoon stage is over' for Cleveland Cavaliers Staff

LeBron: ‘Honeymoon stage is over’ | Nets’ offer sheet for Motiejunas has back-out options | Season could start earlier next year | Return date is up to Jackson

No. 1: LeBron: ‘Honeymoon stage is over’ — The Cleveland Cavaliers started the season 13-2, but have suddenly lost three straight games. They allowed 114 points per 100 possessions over the three games, giving up 68 and 78 points in the paint to the Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls, respectively. There’s still plenty of season left and the Cavs are still in first place in the Eastern Conference, but LeBron James believes things need to turn around now, as ESPN’s Dave McMenamin writes:

“We’ve got to get out of the honeymoon stage,” a visibly frustrated LeBron James said after he had a personal 30-game winning streak broken for his teams when he totaled 20-plus points and 10-plus assists. “That’s y’all’s headline for tomorrow. I know y’all going to use it.”

James finished with 27 points and 13 assists, but he also had a season-high eight turnovers — giving him 20 turnovers during the three consecutive losses.

While he had a part in the Cavs’ undoing, it was Chicago’s 78 points in the paint that really stood out as the reason for their demise. This came after Cleveland was outscored 68-34 in the paint during the first loss of the skid against the Milwaukee Bucks and 30-18 in the second loss against the Los Angeles Clippers.

“You’ve got to play the game the right way,” James continued. “You’ve got to battle every night like we ain’t won nothing. Last year is last year, and after ring night, it’s over with. Now it’s a new season and everybody is gunning for us every night, and we have to understand that. The honeymoon stage is over, and it’s time to play some real ball and be physical, especially in the trenches. Giving up 78 points is ridiculous. We’ve got to man up. Everybody.”


No. 2: Nets’ offer sheet for Motiejunas has back-out options — The Brooklyn Nets are willing to use some of their cap space on Donatas Motiejunas, the restricted free agent who has been unable to reach an agreement with the Houston Rockets. On Friday night, Brooklyn signed Motiejunas to an offer sheet (worth about $35 million over four years) that the Rockets will have the opportunity to match. Motiejunas played just 37 games last season after having back surgery and a three-team trade was voided by the Detroit Pistons in February due to complications with the big man’s physical. But the contract will have multiple safety valves for whichever team ends up with Motiejunas. Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski has the details:

The offer sheet has Motiejunas earning $5 million upon the signing of the contract, and the team has to decide by Jan. 10 whether to pay him another $3.5 million for the remainder of the 2016-17 season, league sources said.

By March 1, the team has to pick up the option for $9 million owed to Motiejunas for the 2017-18 season, sources said.

The final two years of the contract are non-guaranteed, league sources said, which means the team can cut Motiejunas loose without paying the balance of the contract. Before the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, there’s a July 7 trigger date to make a decision on Motiejunas’ deal. Each of the four years includes $1 million in likely bonuses, and $500,000 in unlikely bonuses, sources said.

The Nets delivered the offer sheet electronically to the Rockets on Friday night, and Houston has until midnight Tuesday to match the offer sheet and retain Motiejunas.


No. 3: Season could start earlier next year — The league and the Players Association continue on working toward a new collective bargaining agreement, with a goal of getting a deal done by Dec. 15. Though absolutely nothing is official at this point, some details of talks continue to leak out. As ESPN’s Marc Stein writes, one possibility is that the 2017-18 season would start earlier than we’re accustomed to in order to reduce the number of back-to-backs each team has:

League sources say there’s a strong likelihood that the start of the 2017-18 season will be moved up a week to 10 days, which is yet another measure aimed at reducing the number of back-to-backs teams face over the course of 82 games.

We’re hearing that opening night next season is likely to fall in the Oct. 15-20 range, which would be achieved by shortening the preseason schedule from its longstanding eight-game max per team to five or six exhibition games.

The 2016-17 NBA season, to cite the most recent example, tipped off Oct. 25. Starting a week-plus earlier would give the schedule-makers even more wiggle room to cut down on the number of back-to-backs and four-games-in-five-nights stretches clubs endure.

NBA teams are scheduled to play an average of 16.3 back-to-backs this season, down from 17.8 in 2015-16.


No. 4: Return date is up to Jackson — The Detroit Pistons have won five of their last six games, including three straight road games against Eastern Conference playoff teams. Friday’s win in Atlanta moved them into eighth place in the standings and Detroit could get another boost when they host the Orlando Magic on Sunday. Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy says that point guard Reggie Jackson, who has missed the first 21 games with knee tendinitis, has been cleared to play and that it’s up to Jackson to make the decision on when he makes his season debut. Rod Beard of the Detroit News has the story:

But the question lingers: When will he be able to return to the Pistons lineup after missing the first 20 games of the season? Friday’s game against the Hawks was too soon, but when asked about Sunday’s home matchup against the Orlando Magic, he had an interesting answer.

“We’ll see,” Jackson said.

It’s just the latest marker in the countdown to the Pistons getting their starting point guard back, as he’s been ramping up his activity this week and looking like he’s ready to return. Coach Stan Van Gundy said Jackson did some one-on-one work against rookie Michael Gbinije on Thursday’s off-day in Atlanta and everything’s pointing to a return to the lineup very soon.

Just how soon is the next question.

“It’s pretty much him now, him saying he feels well enough to play,” Van Gundy said. “The medical people have cleared him, he’s gone 5-on-5, though not a ton. It’s really a matter of his comfort level and if he wants to give it a shot.

“Whenever he says ‘I’m ready to go,’ then he’s ready to go.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Steve Kerr admitted to trying marijuana to help with back pain … Andre Iguodala’s boxscore stats rarely stand out, but he makes the Warriors better … Losers of five straight (and eight of their last nine), the Hawks may need to make some changes … J.J. Redick was the second Clipper to get a day off this week … If the Pelicans get an injury exception, Toney Douglas could be the guy they look to sign … and Nerlens Noel hasn’t changed his mind about the Sixers’ frontcourt logjam.


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