Morning Shootaround

Jan. 25 Shootaround -- LeBron James keeping heat on Cavs' decision-makers Staff

LeBron keeping pressure on Cavs’ brass | Point guard shuffle in Chicago | Smart sorry for confrontation with coaching staff | Curry still cherished in Charlotte

No. 1: LeBron continues to press Cavs’ front office — The news yesterday in Cleveland was all about LeBron James’ comments after the Cavs’ loss on the road to the New Orleans Pelicans. He didn’t mince words about wanting the team to look for playmaking help and somewhat doubled-down on that with two tweets yesterday afternoon. As Brian Windhorst of notes, meeting the demands of James is what comes with the success of having James around:

Having LeBron James makes it all worth it.

That’s a mantra the Cleveland Cavaliers’ front office and even some of his teammates sometimes have to chant to themselves. At times, during the chop of an NBA season, it can be easy to lose perspective.

After sleeping on it, James sent this tweet (and this one) on Tuesday that managed to back general manager David Griffin and apply pressure at the same time. This is what James does, and he executes it perfectly.

“I appreciate the fact that he’s really trying to keep us moving in the right direction,” Griffin said two weeks ago when James last went public with a request to add a point guard to the roster.

In a separate interview that week, Griffin told The Vertical: “If you don’t capitalize on the years he has left, then shame on us.”

Griffin knows the mantra.

It’s at least the third time James has publicly talked about the roster over the last month. Behind the scenes, James has been even more forceful.

There are a lot of advanced stats that can tell this tale, but staying basic will do just fine. The Cavs have two players who average more than two assists per game: James and Kyrie Irving. The Golden State Warriors have seven. The San Antonio Spurs have seven. This is what James sees, and it has irritated him for weeks.

The Cavs’ payroll is $127.6 million right now, plus $27 million in owed luxury tax. Both lead the league. As discussions about midseason moves have taken place, the team ownership, led by Dan Gilbert, has made it clear the answer to roster issues can’t always be spending more money.

James, however, does not care. Especially after watching the deeper Warriors and Spurs beat his team over a six-day span last week. It is his viewpoint that the Cavs must be supplemented, and the cost of doing so is irrelevant.

“I don’t got no time to waste. I’ll be 33 in the winter, and I ain’t got time to waste,” said James, who turned 32 in December.

“I just hope that we’re not satisfied as an organization.”

Refer to the mantra.

In the summer of 2015, the Cavs committed to more than $250 million in new contracts to keep the talent surrounding James. It led to the team paying $54 million in luxury tax last season.

The team had the option of doing more that summer. Matthew Dellavedova was interested in a long-term deal with the Cavs that would’ve paid him around $4 million per season. The Cavs also discussed declining a one-year team option on Timofey Mozgov and signing him instead to a three-year deal for around $9 million per season.

Ultimately, the Cavs picked up the Mozgov option for $5 million and forced Dellavedova into a one-year deal at $1.2 million. Had the Cavs done those two bigger deals, it would have added an estimated $35 million to their luxury tax plus the difference in payroll. The Cavs would’ve been next to the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers as the franchises with the highest payrolls in American sports history. And the Cavs don’t have a billion-dollar local TV deal as those teams do.

Last summer, Mozgov and Dellavedova walked in free agency. Good for them they didn’t sign in 2015. Mozgov got $16 million per year from the Lakers. Dellavedova got almost $10 million per year from the Bucks. The Cavs haven’t been able to replace them.

Still, the team is in first place, heavily favored to return to the Finals and likely to send three players to the All-Star Game. But since the team is in a midseason funk, James is poking his finger in the franchise’s ribs.

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No. 2: Point guard shuffle continues for Bulls — So far this season, Rajon Rondo has started 29 games for the Chicago Bulls, Michael Carter-Williams has 12 starts and Jerian Grant has a six starts. Carter-Williams didn’t see it coming when his starting job was taken away last night (Grant got the nod instead) as Chicago continues to make inconsistency at the starting point guard spot a trend. K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune tries to make sense of the revolving door at the point in Chicago:

For Tuesday’s 100-92 victory over the Magic, Jerian Grant started at point guard after not playing by coach’s decision the previous game, one of his eight such designations this season.

Michael Carter-Williams didn’t play by coach’s decision for the first time this season after starting the previous 12 games. And Rajon Rondo, who moved from starting to not playing by coach’s decision for five games Dec. 31, remained in the backup role for the very fluid point guard position.

Symbolism, anyone?

The Bulls have no consistency at point guard because they have no consistent rotation because they have had varying consistency from players. Whether coach Fred Hoiberg’s consistent tinkering affects the latter is open to debate.

Hoiberg, who emphasized the decision was his alone, explained the move thusly.

“We’ve been putting the ball in Jimmy (Butler’s) hands a lot,” Hoiberg said. “We just felt as far as complementing that lineup, Jerian was the guy we’d go with.”

Hoiberg said Grant was “solid” but “a little timid on a couple of his shots.” The plan is for Grant to start Wednesday versus the Hawks.

Rondo, who was benched for the second half of Saturday’s victory over the Kings, has made it clear he would prefer to be elsewhere if his situation doesn’t change. Asked if he feels similarly, Carter-Williams didn’t hesitate.

“I think everybody pretty much has that mindset if they were in that position,” Carter-Williams said, meaning benched. “Some people have more luxury to say it than others.”

Hoiberg understood Carter-Williams’ frustration.

“Obviously, when you get a starting spot taken away, the guy is not going to love it. You don’t expect them to,” Hoiberg said. “The big thing is to go out there in a different role and play your butt off and try to work your way back into the top spot.”

As for Rondo, he chuckled derisively when asked if he thought he may start again.

“Ha,” he said. “Good one.”

Hoiberg talked with Rondo after the morning shootaround.

“It wasn’t much,” Rondo said. “(My role) is game to game.”

Grant finished with seven points and zero assists in 20 minutes. He said the in-and-out nature to his season has proved challenging but is merely a reflection of a roster that features nine players with three years experience or less.

“It’s tough. It’s not all on (Hoiberg),” Grant said. “We have a lot of young, talented guys. So he’s trying to figure out where guys fit in. I’ve been inactive. I’ve been in the Development League. I’ve been playing zero minutes. I’ve been a starter. It’s a lot of up and down.

“But this is a great opportunity here. We’re halfway through the season. If I can play well, I can really establish myself and lead this team into the playoffs.”

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No. 3: Smart sorry for confrontation with coach — The third matchup this season between the Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics figured to be chippy, what with Washington showing up to the game in all black and the past bad blood between the teams. On the court, however, things were mostly civil between the squads. The biggest confrontation came on Boston’s bench during the game, as guard Marcus Smart got into a heated argument with the coaching staff. Brian Robb of the Boston Herald has more:

Celtics guard Marcus Smart took to Twitter Tuesday night to apologize for his words and actions in the closing moments of the Celtics’ 123-108 loss to the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night.

The 21-year-old guard got heated on the Celtics bench with assistant coaches during the final timeout of the game with 2:29 remaining. Cameras caught the intense disagreement between several parties that ultimately ended with Smart leaving the bench area and heading back to the locker room while the game was still in progress.

Brad Stevens indicated after the game to reporters in Washington that the dispute was about Smart wanting to re-enter the game.

“He just wanted to go back in,” Stevens explained. “And he had played 12 (straight) minutes or whatever so he wasn’t going to go back in. He wanted to go back in. He wanted to go back in badly.”

Smart did not immediately apologize for his actions in the locker room while speaking with reporters, but he did confirm the reasoning for the disagreement.

“Just coaches and players, they’re real passionate about the game and hate losing and having different opinions about certain things in the game,” Smart said. “Of course, I wanted to go back in. Just like everybody else to play it out and give it everything they had and leave it on the court. We had different opinions on that.”

Just before midnight on Tuesday, Smart followed up on those comments with an apology on Twitter.

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No. 4: Charlotte ties remain strong for Curry — Reigning two-time Kia MVP Stephen Curry has achieved his greatest fame and accolades as a member of the Golden State Warriors. And although he was born in Akron, Ohio, his roots lie in Charlotte, N.C., where he lived his life and grew up as his father, Dell, played for the hometown Hornets and other NBA teams in his career. As the Warriors visit the Hornets tonight (8 ET, ESPN), Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer looks at the ties Curry always has with his hometown:

The Curry guys wear No. 30 on the basketball court. It started with father Dell, and sons Stephen and Seth carry on the tradition all the way through the NBA.

Except for Charlotte Christian School. Stephen wasn’t big enough to wear No. 30. Literally, not big enough.

“I wanted to wear 30, but the jersey was too big,” Curry recalled Tuesday, as Charlotte Christian retired his jersey. “I couldn’t fit in to that 30 (an XL jersey), so I had to bring it down to something I looked good in on the court.”

As a high school freshman, Stephen Curry was all of 5-foot-7 and 130 pounds, hardly the makings of a future NBA Most Valuable Player. Back then he wasn’t so well equipped to tune out the noise and focus on his aspirations.

“My freshman year, I went through some doubts about whether I could play on the varsity level back then,” Curry recalled. “One of my only regrets is not trying out (for the varsity) that year. I played JV.

“That taught me to go for it. To not let what people might tell you – no matter how short or skinny you might be — deter you from getting where you want to go.”

He might live on the other side of the country, but he made time in his one in-season visit to his hometown to attend a jersey retirement at Christian, then hustle up to Davidson, which was renaming its student section “Section 30” in his honor.

This isn’t just show. He’s gone back to both his schools in the off-season to interact with students. He gave generously to help fund Davidson’s on-campus basketball training facility.

Why, when his base is now the Northern California Bay Area, is he still so tied to these institutions?

“They’re a part of my DNA, growing up here in Charlotte,” Curry said. “I learned a lot from everyone who had a part in developing my life. Not just on the basketball court, but off the court. Then, being able to go to college 30 minutes away and still be part of the greater Charlotte area. It’s hard to turn that off, no matter how far away I live.”

Based on recollections of his former teachers and coaches at Christian, the makings of that approach were already forming.

Art teacher Eva Crawford and Bible instructor Dean Hardy spoke to what a gentleman Curry was in high school, that he was kind to younger students in the way upperclassman athletes can get away with not being.

Then, Christian boys’ basketball coach Shonn Brown told a story about a practice years ago when Curry persisted in throwing a pass to where no teammate stood.

Brown sat back and watched for a bit, then asked Curry what in the world he was doing?

Curry replied that if a teammate would make the correct cut, as designed in the offense, he’d always be there for that pass and it would create an advantage for the offense. The more Brown thought about it, the more he agreed, not only that Curry was correct, but this was a flaw that should be corrected for the Knights to be their best.

Brown said Curry always had NBA dreams, even when he was so small that No. 30 jersey would have draped on him like a bed sheet. But he wouldn’t compromise.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: If LeBron James wants a playmaker added to the team, here are 10 potential options … Austin Rivers had some pointed comments about the LA Clippers after they blew last night’s game vs. Philadelphia … Former Seattle Sonics coach/legend Lenny Wilkens penned an editorial in The Seattle Times about his hopes for the team’s return … The Orlando Magic mascot pulled a pretty solid prank on Robin Lopez last night … The Sacramento Kings’ push to end their long playoff drought is eating at center DeMarcus Cousins … Good news for Philadelphia 76ers fans — most recent scan of rookie Ben Simmons’ injured foot shows it is healing well … Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio is trying to keep pressing on after his grandmother’s recent death …